The meeting space was full Tuesday when Sleepy Eye’s childcare providers met with city officials to talk.

The meeting space was full Tuesday evening, June 18, when Sleepy Eye’s childcare providers came to the Community Center to talk about childcare to city officials. As Mayor Pelzel wrote in his June 6 newspaper column, the city had invited the providers to discuss several questions, especially questions related to a perceived shortage of childcare openings in the Sleepy Eye area.

The response to the invitation was impressive. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services licensing information lookup site, there are 18 licensed in-home childcare providers with a Sleepy Eye address — 14 of them attended the meeting.

Also in attendance were Interim City Manager Bob Elston, Mayor Pelzel, City Councilors Joann Schmidt and Larry Braun, City Attorney Alissa Fischer, EDA Coordinator Kurk Kramer, Chamber Director Christina Andres, Calie Bruendor of Families First of MN, and Brad DeVos, consultant to Little Sprouts Learning Center, Inc.

But those folks were mostly there to listen, ask questions, and maybe offer a clarification.

The childcare providers were asked to do the talking, after Elston opened the meeting with a list of questions that would be discussed.

Some of the questions that garnered the most discussion, and the answers offered by the childcare providers, follow:

1. Is there a shortage of childcare options in Sleepy Eye?

By a show of hands, the providers indicated most are full at this time—which they said is common in the summer. They indicated that they expect to fill any fall openings quite quickly.

The consensus of the providers was that there is a shortage for infants, toddlers and school-age children, but there are plenty of openings for preschoolers.

2. What do you see as a solution to the shortage?

Encouraging more people to start a home-based childcare business. There was a discussion of the many requirements to become licensed. Bruendor (of Families First) agreed becoming licensed may be a barrier to some potential providers because of the many requirements for equipment, home structure, etc. She mentioned start-up grants are available through her agency.

Kramer told the group that EDA loans and programs are available to childcare businesses, just as they are to any Sleepy Eye located business. He said he has never had an inquiry from a childcare provider.

3. Elston said a question had been raised about whether the city planned to open a new childcare center.

He and other city officials in attendance said that has not been a topic of discussion.

4. Providers asked for information on the city’s involvement with Little Sprouts Learning Center, Inc.

Kramer explained LSLC has a business loan from the EDA, and some city officials are advisory members of the Little Sprouts board. He said Little Sprouts Learning Center, Inc. is a non-profit business run by its board of directors.

Kramer told the childcare providers that the city invited business people to a luncheon meeting on July 2—to discuss how or if businesses could assist with the shortage of childcare options in Sleepy Eye. He invited the providers to attend if they could.