Long Run Children's Learning Center in McKeesport to close

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On Aug. 15, more than a half century of service will end at Long Run Children’s Learning Center in McKeesport.

The decision to close the center, which offered services for preschool children with a wide range of developmental levels, was made by its board of directors at a July meeting.

The center is on Long Run Road and served children and families from McKeesport and White Oak.

“This is perhaps the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to be part of. Long Run has been an integral part of the lives and education of hundreds of McKeesport area families over the years,” said Cindy Popovich, chairwoman of the board of directors.

“It has been a privilege to be involved with this organization. Unfortunately, we have had to face the economics of maintaining a highly specialized school with increasingly dwindling revenue sources,” Ms. Popovich said.

Long Run was founded in 1962 by Bertha Mae Chaplin, whose vision was to provide early childhood education and related services to preschool children with various abilities.

The center was acquired by InVision Human Services of Wexford in 2013 with the goal of assessing and supporting the center while program and funding options were considered. After exploring various options, it was determined by the board that the center’s operations could no longer be sustained.

“Our goal was to support Long Run in every way we could while the future of the organization was assessed. Long Run has a wonderful history ... we are proud to have had an opportunity to work with its leadership, staff, the students and their families, and sad to see the program close,” said Ruth Siegfried, founder and CEO of InVision.

Long Run had 140 students during the 2013-14 academic year. Marie Foster, spokeswoman for InVision, said less than 5 percent of that number were children with disabilities.

The board had been considering closing the facility since 2012, she said. 

The center had offered several services, such as Bridge to Kindergarten, a play-based learning experience for children one year away from enrolling in kindergarten, as well as its own preschool and toddler group, and a Pre-K Counts program for 3- to 5-year-olds that was free to families meeting income requirements.

McKeesport Area School District released a statement last week about the center’s closing.

“McKeesport Area School District is working with representatives of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning to discuss the options available to continue providing valuable early childhood programs,” district spokeswoman Kristen Davis said.

“Parents will be notified in a subsequent communication of the steps required to transition their child’s Pre-K education,” she said.

Ms. Foster said a number of factors drove the board to its decision to close the facility.

“Long Run is a highly specialized school with a large property and facility, and the economics of maintaining the program and the facility were not in line with revenue sources available,” she said.

Ms. Foster said since 2012 a number of local donors, including foundations in the McKeesport area, contributed money to assist with operating expenses.

“However, those were temporary solutions,” Ms. Foster said. “We have considered numerous options, including changes in programming and funding. The actual decision was made at the board’s July meeting, but the decision-making process has taken months.” 

Ms. Foster said no decision has been made about the property on Long Run Road.

Long Run’s program director Randy Sarna declined to comment on the closing.

Deana Carpenter, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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