Ruling Could Nix Bengal Cubs Early Learning Center in Barnegat

Sep 19, 2018

The Barnegat Township School District is monitoring a court case involving a Burlington County school district that could have an effect on the Bengal Cubs Early Learning Center, which operates out of the Joseph Donahue Elementary School. The daycare program originally started in 2014 for children of district employees, but then was made available to the general community. Currently, 126 children from infants through four years of age are enrolled..

District Superintendent Brian Latwis said the program is identical to the Teddy Bear Academy, which is run by the Evesham School District. It’s an arrangement another local daycare claimed was illegal. Under the Sun Learning Center filed a lawsuit claiming Teddy Bear exceeded the school district’s statutory authority.

Last month, an administrative law judge ruled in favor of Under the Sun. Solomon Metzger said in his ruling that statutes bar school districts from providing such programs to infants and toddlers. The school district then appealed to state Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet. Latwis said the commissioner has until Oct. 19 to decide if the daycare center will be allowed to remain open. He said Repollet could adopt, modify or reject Metzger’s verdict.

“All we can do now is wait to see what the commissioner is going to do,” said Latwis. “Once he makes his decision, he’ll provide us with some guidance.”

With the possibility of a ruling adversely affecting the Bengals Cubs program, he said the district has applied for a pre-kindergarten extension grant.

“If we were to be awarded this grant, this may also have an impact on our ability to run Bengal Cubs,” said Latwis. “If we get the grant, we would have to end up utilizing those classrooms currently used for Bengal Cubs.”

When it was established in 2014, the Cubs program initially used two classrooms but now utilizes five. Children can be enrolled a minimum two days a week up to five. Hours of operation are 6:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Various tuition packages are available.

“It is curriculum-based,” said Latwis. “Throughout the day, the children are involved in various learning activities.”

For example, a kindergarten readiness program involves read-alouds, music, rhyme time, number sense and dramatic play.

“The kids are in a very nurturing environment,” he said. “By next month, we’ll have a better idea on if we can keep it operating.”

— Eric Englund

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