San Jose parents fight to save Orchard Early Learning Center from closing

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A mad scramble is underway in San Jose as 33 families try to find new pre-school programs after the announcement that theirs is closing.

The parents say they're not going to let the Orchard Early Learning Center close without a fight. They've been joined by Local 521 of the Service Employees International Union, charging the center's operators with unfair labor practices.

Rochelle and Alex Kent's four children aren't sure what they're going to do next Monday. That's when the learning center will close. The three youngest spend all day there while their parents work.

The oldest, nine-year-old Estrella, participates in the after-school program. Estrella said she likes going to the center. "Because you have a lot of friends here. The teachers are very nice," Estrella said.

The bad news came last week in a letter from the Community Child Care Council of Santa Clara County. It says the Orchard Center has a large deficit due to low enrollment; however, the recently unionized teachers and staff believe they've been targeted because of their successful organizing. The Child Care Council is closed this week, so they did not respond.

The teachers are heartsick for the 33 low-income families.

"They're comfortable with us. I've been here eight years so that they can better themselves, getting a better job, going to school, improving their family life, and right now it's just really making it hard for them," said Joann Escobedo a preschool teacher.

Rochelle Kent has collected 111 petition signatures so far, hoping this will save the center. She says other centers don't accept infants or toddlers not yet potty trained, so it's difficult to find another facility to take her kids.

"They've done a lot with my kids. My kids have been very advanced as far as learning, etiquette, saying please and thank you, singing their ABCs," Kent said.

The staff made this artwork to express how they will miss the children.
Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.