Three hundred low-cost child-care slots in Palo Alto disappeared last week when the owners of the 37-year-old Peninsula Day Care Center closed their doors to retire.
Herman Shaw, a pastor who began offering day care in 1974, 20 years after he built the Christian Life Church at 525 San Antonio Road, announced a year ago he would close the center this month. Shaw said he wanted to provide ample notice so parents could make other arrangements.
Friday (June 10) was the final day of operation.
A liquidation sale of school and office supplies — as well as a church pulpit and miscellaneous restaurant items (Shaw also owns and operates Country Gourmet restaurant in Mountain View) — will be held June 18 and June 25, beginning at 8 a.m.
Plans for the 3.5-acre property remain unclear. The Palo Alto City Council last month rejected a bid by SummerHill Homes for a new, 23-home development.
With its fleet of yellow buses and wide frontage on San Antonio, the nonsectarian Peninsula Day Care Center was a familiar if somewhat anomalous enterprise — housed in what still appears to be a church (it is not) and charging far less than the going rate at other Palo Alto child care centers.
Preschool parents paid about $612 a month for 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. care, compared with more than $1,400 charged at Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC).
Parents of school-age children paid about $400 a month for before- and after-school care, which included bus transportation to and from elementary campuses in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos. On-site before- and after-school care at Palo Alto elementary schools runs about $670 a month.
"So many parents come in here and say, 'We didn't even check you out because your prices were so low we figured you had to be crummy,'" said Eddie Shaw, Herman Shaw's sister, a retired Los Altos elementary school teacher who has helped at the school in recent years.
Shaw spoke last week in an immaculate classroom neatly stacked with school supplies in preparation for a liquidation sale later this month.
With multiple acres, Peninsula Day Care Center has huge playgrounds and separate facilities for preschool and school-age programs.
Low tuition was possible, Shaw said, "because we own the property, and it's truly nonprofit."
The center catered to working parents, observing public-school minimum days and holiday schedules. Most children came from Mountain View, Palo Alto and Los Altos, in that order, with their parents holding jobs in Palo Alto, she said.
Clients ranged from about 10 percent who qualified for state child-care subsidies, to doctors and nurses at Stanford University Medical Center to corporate CEOs, she said.
Peninsula Day Care Center also ran a side business, offering bus transportation for thousands of field trips for public schools in Los Altos and Mountain View, she said.
In fact, the expense of complying with the latest bus-emissions regulations from the state was a factor in the decision to close the center, she said.
Shaw said she thinks most families have found alternative child care, many through the YMCA in Mountain View. Peninsula Day Care invited parents to a "day care fair" one Saturday in March, at which other centers set up recruiting tables.
"We just want people to know how much we've enjoyed serving the community," she said.
"We've been here so long we have children whose parents came here as children, and staff who were here as children and came back to work for us."
One bus will be donated to a staff member who's starting a center for abused women in Mexico, Shaw said, and 20 tables and 200 chairs were sold at low cost to a church that's building a school in Guatemala.
Herman Shaw, who personally opened the day care center at 6:30 a.m. each day, will spend more time at his restaurant, his sister said. Shaw's late wife, Mary Jo, had managed the preschool program. She died last year.