The Menlo Park Presbyterian Church announced Kirk House Preschool will be closing next year, an act that some parents say will deny their child the opportunity to be exposed to Christian culture.
“My child would probably not have heard about Noah’s ark and Jesus, had it not been for Kirk House,” said Courtney Smyth, whose child is enrolled in the program.
Smyth, who is not a church member, says she’s not a religious person. However, she wants her daughter to learn about the principles of Christianity.
“I want Tegan to be able to make decisions for herself and this is a great introduction,” Smyth said. Although she would not be directly impacted if the school were to close, since she only has one child, Smyth and other parents met with Senior Pastor John Ortberg on Wednesday to learn why the church would eliminate this program.
Since 1953, Kirk House Preschool has educated children ages three through five on the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church’s campus. It is an academic institution that incorporates religious values into the play-based curriculum with the goal of cultivating social and intellectual growth. Families from all over the Peninsula send their children to schoolthere.
Pastor Ortberg said one reason for closing the program was that the school is no longer meeting the needs of the community.
“In recent years, we have seen major changes in the needs of families and early childhood education that have contributed to our decision,” Ortberg said in a letter to parents.
“We also want to continually look at how we can best fulfill our primary mission to bring people to mature faith in Jesus and, for a variety of factors in the life of our church, believe this is the right time to sunset this ministry,” he said.
Smyth said that during the meeting with the pastor another reason emerged. “They plan to level that area in favor building a fellowship courtyard,” she said, noting that none of the church elders who made the decision were present.
“They want to be able to have a space for the folks who drive from say San Mateo to have food after church,” she said. Smyth and four other parents confirmed that this was revealed during that meeting. When asked about this, church leaders said otherwise.
“No, that is not accurate,” said Nicole Laubscher. Laubscher is a Learning Team Leader at the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, who is actively conversing with the preschool community about this issue. She declined to say more about the issue.
Carol Day, Director of the Kirk House Preschool, said it was not her decision to close the school. Her job will be terminated when the school closes. She hesitated to talk further about the issue.
Smyth said she thinks the school leaders were “blindsided” with this plan and hopes that they will reconsider keeping the school open for future generations of children.
The City of Menlo Park's Community Development Department, which is responsible for processing the permits that would be required to demolish the preschool, has no permit applications on file for the church. The church plans to close the school in June 2013.