Christmas will come early to the Children's Guild program of Howard County. The local extension of the Baltimore-based, non-profit private school for emotionally disturbed 7-to-12-year-olds apparently won't have to endure the imminent closing its operators and client families had feared.
Established last year at Taylor Manor Hospital in Ellicott City, the local program was nearly to the point of shutting down a few weeks ago for failing to meet expenses. It requires 15 students to break even at Taylor Manor, but recently only 13 were enrolled.
Two unpleasant options emerged. The school could have closed permanently, though that would have deprived the suburbs south of Baltimore of their only day school for disturbed children. In addition, it could have meant layoffs for staffers of the Howard County program.
Or the remaining students could have commuted daily to the Children's Guild School in Northeast Baltimore. The bus ride of about an hour each way, however, would have been extremely taxing for the children and their on-board supervisors, adding a burden to their lives that they clearly didn't need.
Then there was a third, much more hopeful option. Children's Guild officials approached the Howard County school system to initiate discussions about placing the program in a public school.
Last week, the two parties agreed that, starting in January, the Children's Guild can operate out of the Cedar Lane special education public school in Columbia through the current academic year, at a rent lower than what Taylor Manor had been charging. Cedar Lane also offers more facilities and programs suited to the students than were available at the hospital.
The students' parents can finalize the deal by giving it their OK at a meeting with Children's Guild officials tomorrow night. Their approval is expected, says Stanley Mopsik, the school's executive director, who adds he's confident the program will remain at Cedar Lane beyond next June.
Officials of the Children's Guild and the Howard school system deserve praise for working out an innovative private-public partnership that will bring much-needed benefit to a special group of children.
Unlike so many Christmas presents that are forgotten soon after they've been opened, this early gift for the Children's Guild and the Howard County families it serves should still resonate many months, maybe even years, from now.