An update on the effort to keep the child care center at Tri-Valley open.

Last week, the Herald-Dispatch reported on the abruptly announced closing of the new child care center at Tri-Valley. With Dec. 15 expected as the last day open, and parents of 28 children with no care options, a group of city, school and business representatives met with Tara Morrison, Tri-Valley Program Area Manager (through skype) on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 5.

The Sleepy Eye group had one mission: convince Tri-Valley to continue operating the child care center until licensing could be secured for a new operator. Erika Todd, currently a teacher at the center, had expressed an interest in running the business herself—but it would take six months to become licensed.

Morrison reiterated to the group that it was a financial decision on Tri-Valley’s part. They had no funds available to continue to run the center at a deficit. At the recent EDA meeting with parents and staff, a question was raised as to whether the deficit was solely the result of a slow start and if current levels of use could mean a break even proposition.

On Tuesday, Morrison provided more financial information and based on their numbers, it appeared the cost to operate would continue to be higher than revenue. Todd’s proposition to run the center assumes lower employee costs (insurance would not be offered) and higher fees.

City Manager Mark Kober, crunching numbers as he looked over Tri-Valley’s report, said it looked like a gap of at least $30,000 for Tri-Valley to continue at break-even for six months. School Superintendent John Cselovszki said he believes the child care center needs to operate for three years to see if it can be profitable. He said the school might even be able to operate the center—if it could break even.

The question for Tri-Valley: Will you work with the community for six months, if the deficit is covered?

The immediate problem is time. “The parents have no where to go,” said Todd. “They are waiting to see what can be done.” And, more time—the city council and school board needs time to discuss any involvement. Kurk Kramer, EDA Coordinator asked, “Is this (child care shortage) not one of our priorities?” Yes, was the answer from EDA members Mike Schmid and Kathy Haala. “The EDA can meet on short notice and decide if they can cover the deficit,” said Haala, EDA President.

The final result of Tuesday’s meeting was a request for Tri-Valley to continue operations for 60 days, with any financial loss covered by the community, and an eventual plan to extend that time-frame to six months for re-licensing. Morrison said she would try to have an answer in the next day or so. She said Tri-Valley started the child care center because they saw a need and wanted to help the community, but simply cannot afford a loss.

Kober asked Todd to get a parent meeting together, so they can be asked about their commitment to the center. Todd said that would be easy as they are eager for an answer.