The Depew School District’s decision to switch providers for its School-Age Child Care Program after almost 20 years has concerned parents and stripped an area day care center of a third of its business.

Despite a petition signed by nearly 50 parents currently using the program who want to see the same provider return for the 2013-14 academic year, it was revealed during last week’s Board of Education meeting that the district decided not to renew its contract with It’s a Small World Day Care in favor of a program operated by the Lancaster Family YMCA.

The discussion originated when Angela Wirth, an employee of It’s a Small World who has worked with the latchkey program for 16 years, approached the board during the meeting to ask why the change was made and to plead with officials to change their mind.

“With great pride, we have offered a program that is second to none,” she said.

“This shift will be a tremendous benefit to all of our families and the children that we serve for several reasons,” Superintendent Jeffrey Rabey replied in a prepared statement.

Benefits he listed included the YMCA’s renting space at Cayuga Heights Elementary School and its operation of the district’s universal pre-kindergarten program in the building, its non-profit status, its ability to provide financial assistance to families and its partnership with the district on a grant application that would address obesity rates of students at all grade levels.

Patricia Riley Tabor and Gail Cannon opened It’s a Small World Day Care in 1986 in space leased from the district at the Terrace Education Center, offering child care and pre-K services for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years. District officials approached center owners about offering before- and after-school programs for Cayuga Heights Elementary School pupils in 1993, and the contract has been renewed each fall since.

Several aspects of the contract cancellation – which was made official in a letter to It’s a Small World dated April 26 – have upset Tabor. With the pending sale of the Terrace Education Center, day care center officials were asked to vacate the premises by the end of April. Day care operations were relocated to the business’ Patrick Lane site. The School-Age Child Care business operations required more space, so Cannon and Tabor leased an office at 5333 Transit Road so that they would still be close to the Cayuga Heights programs.

While the contract has always included a 30-day notification clause for either side to decide not to renew, Tabor would have appreciated notice before she signed the new lease agreement on Transit Road.

Another point Rabey made that Tabor disputes was that the YMCA could provide more financial benefits to parents through the Erie County Department of Social Services, but Tabor said that day cares also have this ability.

“There is no difference between the contract we have with the County of Erie and the one the YMCA has with them,” she said.

During last week’s meeting, School Board Trustee Michael Fusani angrily expressed concern over the board not being made aware of the situation before the decision was finalized and over Rabey’s assertion that the YMCA was more qualified to operate the School-Aged Child Care Program.

“I think they are just as qualified,” Fusani said.

He also asked why the board wasn’t afforded the opportunity to vote on the matter, and Rabey responded that it is not policy for the board to vote on rental agreements.

Tabor estimates that the district’s decision to cancel the contract will cost the day care center more than $100,000 per year.

“I can safely say about one-third of our business came from this program and therefore we will take a big hit,” she said. “We created and built a program for 20 years that we are being forced to turn over to another organization that will never replace what we’ve given to the families of Depew.”