About 20 business and industry representatives from Estherville and throughout the region and even statewide met at the Estherville Public Library Community Room Tuesday to try to find a solution to an impending shortage in child care in the community.
Estherville Lincoln Central is closing the Estherville Child Care Center at the end of June with the infant portion of the center closing at the end of this month. According to figures provided by Katie Olson, communications specialist with Child Care Resource & Referral, the center still serves three infants, three preschoolers and 35 school-age children.
Olson noted that child care gives parents working opportunities, encourages business development, enlarges the tax base and helps develop a skilled labor force. She said eight out of 10 economic professionals say child care should be incorporated into local economic development planning.
Olson said CCR&R could help by meeting with key community partners to develop a plan to meet child-care needs, provide parent education on choosing quality child care and recruit and provide consultation to prospective child-care providers.
She said local hospitals can help by ordering supplies at costs.
Kathy Evert, executive director of the Iowa Lakes Corridor, said the Corridor had been contacted by someone who wanted to start a daycare center.
That's the good news. Janette Jensen of Avera Holy Family Hospital said in the next 10 years fully half of current staff is slated to retire - leaving those positions to be filled by younger workers with children.
Heidi Schlueter, Iowa director for First Children's Finance of Waterloo, said she had seen Iowa communities in which a child-care center was closing and the parents went to home-based care centers.
Dick Sievers of Mid-Sioux Opportunity said managing a daycare center is a very difficult job, with a lot of overhead. "Community support is very important," Sievers said, adding that in some communities the city contributes to keep a child-care center open.
Kieja Evans of ELC said where the school ran into problems running the daycare was the cost of retirement and health insurance. "Our rates are right where they're at now to pay our staff costs," Evans said, adding that the center didn't have rent or utilities to pay. As far as having another entity take on the job, Evans said there was a question of liability if the district rented school space to a daycare.
The group will meet again to continue to pursue a solution.