Sleepy Eye parents will still have the option of center-based child care.

At the end of November, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council unexpectedly announced they would close The Learning Tree childcare center in mid-December, citing a financial strain. Because it just opened the previous March, the announcement caught staff, parents and businesses off-guard. The center had opened with encouragement and some assistance from the Sleepy Eye EDA—who had identified a lack of child care options in Sleepy Eye as a major concern.

Concerned parents, staff, city leaders and business representatives met with Tri-Valley officials and convinced them to keep the center open while options for transferring ownership were explored.

The result is the formation of a non-profit organization, that will own and operate the childcare center, keeping it in the same location.

The new childcare center, Little Sprouts Learning Center, is expected to open on Monday, June 4. That’s the goal the Board of Directors has set as reasonable, as they work through all the details involved in organizing, obtaining licensure, and setting policies.

Misty Riebel, who had children at Learning Tree when its closing was announced, agreed to serve on the new center’s Board of Directors and was elected Board Chair. She answered the Herald-Dispatch’s questions about the organization and childcare center plans.

H-D: Why did you get involved with this effort?

Riebel: I became involved in this project because we have an overt need within our community and surrounding areas for childcare. I have a vested interest in this, with my two young boys (5 and 2 years of age) who both need childcare. When we, the parents, were initially told in November 2017 that the center was going to close, I called over 25 in-house daycares in the area, that did not have an opening for my youngest, who was not yet 2 at the time.

It is next to impossible to find childcare in the area. This learning center is very important to the success and development of Sleepy Eye. I say this, because generally, individuals with children need to find child care, and if we don’t have that service in our community, we will lose valuable people who cannot find someone/someplace to provide care for their child while they work.

H-D: How will the center be operated?

Riebel: The center will be run by a Board of Directors (Board) and then have a Center Director (Executive Director). The Board will play a huge role in the operations of the center during the stages of getting things up and running to the rigorous licensing standards and make financial decisions as well. The Executive Director will be in charge of daily operations within the facility to ensure that the center is running smoothly on a daily basis. We will have staff, including lead teachers, assistant teachers when necessary, and aides in order to ensure the smooth running of the facility and to provide direct care and education learning for our children.

H-D: Is there anything you want the public to know about Little Sprouts Learning Center?

Riebel: Speaking on behalf of the Board, we believe each child, as an individual, has unique qualities and capabilities. It is our goal to assist them in growth and development of all areas that we can, in order for them to achieve their potential for emotional, social, intellectual and physical development. We strive to formulate partnerships with families in order to best support each child’s developmental needs.

Riebel said the current center is accepting requests to be put on the waiting list or sign up for spots at Little Sprouts. More information will be available as the opening day approaches this spring.