Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 5:57 am | Fair 44º


County Education Office Will Close Zaca Center Preschool in Buellton Without New Operator

County looking for new operator to take over the facility after it says it can no longer afford to run the program

Children ages 2 to 5 attend the Zaca Center preschool in Buellton. The Santa Barbara County Education Office is searching for a new operator after deciding not to fund the program after the current school year ends.
Children ages 2 to 5 attend the Zaca Center preschool in Buellton. The Santa Barbara County Education Office is searching for a new operator after deciding not to fund the program after the current school year ends.  (Courtesy photo)

The Santa Barbara County Education Office announced in a letter to parents earlier this month that it will no longer be operating the Zaca Center preschool in Buellton after the end of the current school year.

The SBCEO has owned and operated the center for two decades, and is in the process of searching for a new operator, said Kathy Gulje, the South County coordinator for the office’s special education services.

Gulje told Noozhawk that the center’s income simply doesn’t match its expenses, which rise yearly. The center doesn’t have the funding avenues it did 20 years ago, she said.

If the county doesn't find a new operator, the facility will close at the end of the school year. 

Parents of the 2-to-5-year-old children who attend the school were notified by the county in a Sept. 1 letter.

The Zaca Center, at 27 Six Flags Circle, was developed as a “creative and innovative model for full inclusion,” Gulje said, meaning special education children learn alongside general education children.

The preschool is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and a demonstration site for the Outdoor Classroom Project, an initiative of the Child Education Center.

Much of the preschool’s curriculum is undertaken outdoors, and parents of general education students pay tuition, while those of special education students do not.

As a demonstration site, early childhood educators from across the state visit the center and check out its educational model, said Theresa Embry, a project manager, trainer and consultant with the Outdoor Classroom Project who co-chairs its Santa Barbara County steering committee with Zaca’s director, Shelley Grand.

Grand and “her teachers are really integrated into the value of the whole children’s program,” Embry said, which includes nutritional and physical components.

With parents driving in from beyond the immediate community and facing limited alternatives, it’s critical that the center continues to operate, she said.

According to the SBCEO, 43 preschoolers and their families are served on any given day at the center. 

Zaca Center parents told Noozhawk it is the only preschool in the area not run through a church program.

Gulje said that the SBCEO is searching for a new operator who can continue running the center as it currently is, but with more funding sources.  

A new operator, for instance, might have people dedicated to writing grant proposals for further funding, which the SBCEO does not, Gulje said.

Communication with parents will continue, she added.

Anyone with questions about the Zaca Center changes can call the SBCEO at 805.964.4711.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.