A church-owned preschool that has operated for over 40 years in Pensacola, Florida, will soon be closing its doors, with leaders citing fears over restrictive government regulations for the recently announced decision.
Gateway Christian Preschool, which is run by Gateway Church of Christ, released a statement discussing the impending closure and noting that, though the school has a positive reputation, “things have changed in the area of preschool education over the years.”
The statement explained that Gateway Christian School had joined the state’s Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program back in 2005, a free pre-K program for all 4-year-old Florida children. Despite being in that program for more than a decade, the elders of Gateway Church of Christ said they have recently become concerned, citing some of the “serious threats” that led to the closure.
“The VPK program, however, began to concern us as an Eldership because with acceptance of public funds comes a vulnerability and we worried that events now occurring in other states could soon happen here,” the statement read. “The government could start curtailing our religious teachings, could insist on transgender bathrooms, and could force us to present a strictly secular curriculum.”
Gateway Christian Preschool thus decided to stop taking public funds and to leave the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program, but realized after doing a number of studies into alternative options that continuing to operate would mean imposing a massive tuition increase and a reduction to staff and students — or, it would require launching a full-day program.
Considering the local demographics, the church said these options simply weren’t feasible.
The school currently gets 60 percent of its student enrollment from the government pre-K program, which includes a $2,300 payout per child each year. The remaining 40 percent of the school’s students are young children aged 1 to 3 whose parents pay for them to enroll, according to The Christian Post.
“The leadership has reached the prayerful decision that the Gateway Preschool will finish the present school year and then close,” the statement continued. “We are proud of this ministry, and we are very mindful of the hard work and dedication that so many have given to this program over the years.”
Barbara Deem, director of Gateway Christian Preschool, told The Christian Post this week that the decision to close — which she does not personally support — was due to the view that government regulations could become a “liability” for the school.
“There has always been some concern among a lot of people with taking any kind of government dollars as to whether or not the people could have a say in what you teach, your curriculum, whether or not it is a separation of church and state issue,” Deem told the outlet.
She continued, “We have built in a protection in our contract with the local coalition office that provides our services for the VPK so that we have time throughout the day that the state is not paying for in order to alleviate any possibility of being challenged on teaching Christian values on the government dollar.”
The church elders expressed gratitude to the community for the thousands of children who have come through the preschool over the years, and asked for prayer as the church moves forward in other directions.
According to WEAR-TV, about 85 families will be impacted by the decision to close the school.
(H/T: Christian Post)
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