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Early Childhood Center at Mill Neck Manor to close in August

Lauren Tan, with her son, Matteo Tan, 3,

Lauren Tan, with her son, Matteo Tan, 3, left, and Jennifer Biondo, with her son Michael, 6, right, at Biondo's home in Upper Brookville on May 5, 2017. Matteo Tan is a current student at the Early Childhood Center at Mill Neck Manor, and Michael Biondo is a former student. Both parents are upset that the center will close in August. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Administrators at a private Mill Neck preschool that serves about 75 special-needs children announced Friday that the school will close Aug. 11, at the end of the summer session.

Mill Neck Manor Early Childhood Center was not able to secure enough funding to sustain the program, school officials said. They did not specify how much was needed for the school to stay open, but said it faced several millions of dollars in losses.

“This decision is in no way a reflection on the very talented and dedicated ECC staff who have earned their great reputation,” said Michael F. Killian, president and chief executive officer of the Mill Neck Family of Organizations. “Rather, it is a last resort in response to insurmountable and recurring structural and related long-term operating deficits.”

Parents of current and former students were crushed by the news.

Jonathan Knox, of Kings Park, has an autistic 4-year-old daughter in the program.

“It is a huge loss,” said Knox, who used to live in Glen Head, which is closer to Mill Neck. “My daughter started only where she could say one or two words. But through the services and teachers and program, my daughter is now using full sentences. It is a very, very sad day.”

The center, founded in 1991, provides intensive assistance to children ages 3 and 4 who may have deficits in speech, communication, cognitive development and gross and fine motor development.

Mill Neck will help affected students with placement for the 2017-18 school year and will negotiate with its union regarding the closure, school officials said.

The decision will not affect the larger organization’s other entities, including the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf. Officials said children and adults who are deaf, hard of hearing and have other disabilities still will be served.

School officials, who acknowledged the financial quandary in February, had appealed to state legislators, and union members had agreed to concessions in attempts to fill the financial gap.

Jennifer Biondo, of Upper Brookville, has a son, now 6, who graduated from the program.

“I’m devastated,” she said. “They helped my son tremendously for three years. There are fabulous teachers who are so dedicated . . . There are so few schools like this.”

Parents also said they were upset with the lack of information. They learned about the closure announcement, they said, when a reporter called them after the school issued a news release.

“If we can’t keep the school from closing, I want to say ‘Shame on you’ for the way that he did this whole situation,” said Lauren Tan, of Bayville, who has a 3-year-old in the school, referring to Killian.

Francine Bogdanoff, superintendent of schools for the Mill Neck Family of Organizations, said she is saddened the school will close. She blamed it on “operating deficits.”

“This program did a fabulous job for many years and worked for thousands of kids and has done the very best for these children,” Bogdanoff said.

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