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PRAB Closing Childcare Center on George Street After Just 17 Months

PRAB Offerred Subsidized Childcare Inside a New Brunswick Baptist Church

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—After less than 17 months in operation, the Puerto Rican Action Board (PRAB) will close the childcare center it opened inside the Tabernacle Baptist Church on George Street.

Calling it a "difficult decision" to close the facility, the social services non-profit said that "despite widespread promotion of the program... PRAB was unsuccessful in meeting the enrollement to ensure program viability."

According to previous press releases, the center provided "high-quality and affordable full-day preschool for children between the ages of 2-1/2 and 5" and offerred reduced of free tuition for children from low-income households with working parents, or those attending school.  There were 52 "slots" in the program, according to PRAB.

The facility will close for good on August 26, according to an August 5 press release.

PRAB spokesperson Jennifer Shamy said the project, which was somewhat unique for the organization, "was started under the previous administration" and carried out under new CEO Jose Carlos Montes.

"We are well aware that this will be a loss to the community, especially given the great job the staff has done in serving the students and their families," Montes was quoted as saying in the release.   "At the same time we must responsibly balance the community services we provide with ensuring our overall institutional health."

Montes was hired in 2014, after the organization was led by a temporary outside consultant following the abrupt departure of Mario Vargas, who left after being accused of sexual harassment by multiple PRAB employees.

Regarded as a leader in early childhood education, PRAB uses well-researched teaching techniques that fosters academic, social and physical skills.

According to the their website, PRAB was started in 1969 by Puerto Rican volunteers who taught English to recently-arrived Latin American immigrants.

Two years later, the group was incorporated as a private non-profit and then in 1974, the New Jersey education department began to fund PRAB for its English as a Second Language (ESL) and Graduation Equivalency Diploma (GED) programs.

Through grants and partnering with other groups, PRAB offers an array of services from childcare to informing tenants of their rights and counseling youth at risk of falling into gang lifestyles.

They have nearly 300 fully-trained, bilingual and multiculturally oriented staff that has reached some 30,000 people.

Today, PRAB has thirteen facilities in Middlesex and Mercer counties.  The center that is closing August 26 was unique in that it was a "true daycare" open to residents of any town.  The other six "early childhood centers" it operates in New Brunswick are done in conjunction with the New Brunswick Board of Education.

On December 31, the agency closed its office in Lakewood "due to the non-renewal of its Multi-Service program contract by the New Jersey Department of Community and Families."

PRAB's Board of Directors includes Middlesex County Freeholders Blanquita Valenti and Kenneth Armwood, as well as former New Brunswick Police Director Michael Beltranena, North Brunswick Mayor Francis "Mac" Womack, and John Clarke, the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Housing Authority (NBHA).