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Tiny Tots has operated in various capacities in Escondido for the past 35 years. Courtesy photo
Tiny Tots has operated in various capacities in Escondido for the past 35 years. Courtesy photo
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Escondido preschool program Tiny Tots to close in a year

ESCONDIDO — The city’s Tiny Tots early education and preschool program will end in a year. 

The City Council agreed to keep the program running for one more year before shutting it down due to declining enrollment and structural budget issues during the June 14 council meeting.

Tiny Tots has operated in various capacities for over 35 years, providing children 18 months to five years of preschool introduction, exploratory activities, social interaction, basic academic concepts, kindergarten preparation and summer camp.

First provided through a contracted entity, the program grew in popularity and eventually became city-run. 

While popular early on, enrollment has decreased over the last several years. Staff believes the decline in enrollment is due to the city’s shrinking age group and multiple competing programs, including preschool and transitional kindergarten classes available for free through the Escondido Union School District.

Between 2017 and 2022, the population of children five years old and younger in Escondido dropped 17%, according to city data. 

At the council meeting, Deputy Director of Community Services Robert Rhoades suggested that Tiny Tots funding and staff would be better suited to fill roles in other city programs that provide senior transportation, recreation classes, afterschool programs and summer camps. 

Tiny Tots
The city believes funding for the Tiny Tots program would be better spent elsewhere. Courtesy photo

“Confronted with flat budgets and rising costs, the Community Services staff had to make some difficult choices as to where to spend those resources,” Rhoades said. “I believe that they would be better utilized in other programs that serve a greater portion of the community.”

Several parents and former participants of Tiny Tots asked the city to reconsider ending the program.

Resident Melanie Johnson described how her 3-year-old son thrives in the program and fears similar programs like transitional kindergarten may not suit him. 

“I don’t think he is ready to jump into a 6-hour program, five days a week,” Johnson said. “This program provides an amazing transition opportunity that teaches children how to succeed in school.”

Despite the pleas to keep the program open, the City Council agreed that the funds would be better spent elsewhere, especially as the city struggles to balance an ongoing structural budget deficit. 

“Last week we were having conversations about closing libraries, fire stations and police cuts,” said Councilmember Consuelo Martinez. “Cuts are inevitable due to the current budget deficit.”

Although Martinez agreed that the closure of Tiny Tots was necessary, she felt there wasn’t enough notice given to the community. She asked to provide the program one more year as a family transition period.

The City Council voted 3-2 to give the program one more year before closing, with Councilmembers Mike Morasco and Christian Garcia opposed.

Morasco, who has served on the City Council for over a decade, noted that the city has been discussing the program’s potential closure for some time and felt it was time to decide.

“This is something that staff has studied for an extensive amount of time,” Morasco said. “It’s time to make that choice and move forward with a very well thought of and emotionally steady recommendation by staff.”

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