BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The students are little but the noise their parents are making is big.

St. Philip’s 40-year-old preschool is closing somewhat abruptly and a large group of parents said they aren’t buying the stated reasons why.

About 90 children are currently enrolled at Saint Philip’s Preschool on Stockdale Highway in Bakersfield but over the course of its 40 year, multi-generational history, the number is well into the thousands. And Saint Philip Catholic Church, which administers the school with the backing of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, is hearing from many of those families over its seemingly sudden decision to close.

The church sent parents a letter last week announcing the school’s closure Feb. 10 – one week’s notice. The letter cited rising operating costs, the ongoing pandemic, staffing issues, “concerns from parents regarding the operation of the school” and a recent state inspection.

And that has a number of parents, teachers and former administrators howling.

Parents said most of the things in the letter from Parish Priest Hector Lopez were misleading or flat-out wrong, from the number of years the preschool has been open to the implication that the most recent state inspection discovered problems.

It didn’t. State inspector Juan Penate said he found no violations whatsoever and former administrators at the school said it has never been flagged.

Parents pointed out that everyone, everywhere, was dealing with rising costs, but St Philip never alerted students’ families – many of them well-to-do – about options such as increasing tuition or a fundraising campaign.

And – as for staffing issues – parents said the school is fully staffed. The school does need a director to replace its interim director but that’s only because Father Lopez dismissed the previous one earlier this month despite glowing reviews from teachers. Efforts to reach Father Lopez were unsuccessful. 

Teachers Kim Wiggins and Diane Cornejo were equal parts sad and irate.

“The reasons that the parents were given and that we were given was first of all financial, a state inspection, questions that parents were given concerning staff and those, in itself, are false,” Cornejo said.

“The parents are pretty angry,” Wiggins said. “They’re angry about the fact that Amanda Flores, who was out director, was doing a fantastic job and everything was going smoothly. The parents are pretty frustrated because they feel like they’re just getting roadblocked and there’s really no answers that are being given to them.”

Can anything be done at this juncture? Probably not. But parent Carole Angelini Stevens, who has one child at the school and was hoping to enroll another in two years, wondered if the school can just move to another location, without the church’s involvement.

“We are pleading to the public if there’s anyone who has a building that we can use to finish out the school year,” she said.

Father Lopez said the decision to close the school was made in consultation with Bishop Joseph Brennan and the superintendent of Catholic schools. Dozens of heartbroken parents said they still haven’t heard a valid reason.

The Diocese released a statement to 17 News Monday afternoon in which it acknowledged that the state inspection was not a factor in the school’s closure. It did re-state the reasons previously cited in the letter originally issued to parents.