Guardian Angels Church in Oakdale said it will close Little Angels at the end of the school year.
Stunned by the news that Guardian Angels Church in Oakdale will discontinue its relationship with the Little Angels Preschool at the end of the school year, parents are trying to rally support for the program and persuade church officials to change their minds.
On Saturday, supporters will meet with church administrator Denny Farrell and church trustees to plead their case for keeping the 15-year-old preschool going.
About 90 children ages 3 to 5 attend Little Angels, which has eight teachers.
The news caught parents by surprise, as many of them had just registered their children for the 2012-13 school year and had no idea the church was looking at closing Little Angels until a letter arrived last week.
"This is not an us versus them situation, but we do want an explanation," said Mary Brockley, whose 3-year-old son attends Little Angels. "We are trying to be a unified front with the church, but we had no idea this was on their radar. We want to know why we were blindsided by this."
Little Angels operates at Guardian Angels as a ministry. The preschool is self-sustaining, with all program-related expenses covered by tuition and fundraisers, said director Sue Dwuznik.
The church has provided the space and covered costs for things such as cleaning, utilities and maintenance since its inception, Farrell said.
In a statement, the Rev. Rodger Bauman, the church's pastor, said the church can no longer do so. He said the tight economy has led to a shortage in pledges for 2012, and that the "church needs to consider other uses for the space that will generate income for the parish."
Even though its website still says that Little Angels is "enrolling now for fall 2012 school year," church officials have referred affected families to a preschool program at St. Ambrose Church in Woodbury, and to a new program that will start in the fall at Transfiguration Church in Oakdale.
Little Angels supporters have passed out fliers, and set up a website and Facebook page to garner support to save their school.
"We are hopeful that through open communication we can reach an agreement that will benefit everyone involved," Dwuznik said.
Farrell said he is sympathetic to the supporters' cause, but it's doubtful the decision will be reversed. Making the announcement now gives families ample time to make other arrangements, he said.
"This has been a tough five days [since the announcement]," Farrell said this week. "This decision was not made in a vacuum."
Dwuznik said it is possible that Little Angels could move to another location, but that would lead to program changes because the preschool's mission and identity is tied to Guardian Angels.
"This is disheartening," Brockley said. "Everybody agrees this is the best preschool in the east metro, hands down. We hope there can be some collaborative efforts to see if there is any way of saving it."
Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib