By Mike Christopherson (Crookston Daily Times)
Momentum toward easing a shortage of licensed child care slots in Crookston continues to build, with word that Tri-Valley Opportunity Council receiving a $51,500 child care grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) coming on the heels of last week’s news that a daycare center is being sought in the former Church of Christ building at the corner of Fisher Avenue and North Front Street.
In all, DEED awarded $500,000 to eight agencies that will use the money in increase the number of child care providers in their communities.
City Administrator Shannon Stassen in late 2016 indicated in late 2016 that Tri-Valley was pursuing the grant, and the Crookston City Council agreed to come up with the necessary local match. Tri-Valley President/CEO Jason Carlson said the agency sought $59,000. “So we did pretty well,” considering that only $500,000 was available statewide, he added.
But, since he’s still trying to determine what portion of Tri-Valley’s request was not funded, Carlson said he hasn’t wanted to provide many details as to what specific next steps will be taken. The next steps in Crookston will be to form an advisory committee that will include representatives from the City, Child Care Aware, Head Start, and the Crookston Early Childhood Initiative.
“That group will help decide how to distribute the mini-grants and any help for a center-based operation,” Carlson explained. “We are excited to help expand access to quality child care in Crookston.”
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The project description included in the executive summary of Tri-Valley’s grant application states:
“The Crookston project seeks to add 140 child care spaces in the community, growing the child care slots by 40 percent. The project will engage quality caregiving practices through training, technical assistance, and resources. TVOC and its partners believe that increasing the number of spaces is important, but ensuring that these spaces are providing quality services is equally important. In order to accomplish this hefty goal, funds are needed for startup and expansion of family child care providers and child care centers. This project would offer mini grants for new and existing providers who would like to add or increase the number of infant and/or toddler spaces available. Providers could use this mini grant funding for facility modifications to meet licensing, toys, equipment, egress, fencing, safety items, curriculum, or other needs approved by Child Care Aware. Project dollars would also be used for training caregivers to meet start up requirements.”
Carlson added that news of a new day care center being planned in the former church is more good news on the child care front. “A new center is absolutely something this grant will support, assuming their plans include the quality we are striving for in the community,” he said.
The city council approved a conditional use permit request for the day care center in February. Building Official Matt Johnson told the Times at the time that the building could potentially accommodate around 30 children.
Carlson noted that Tracey Sundeen from Head Start and Maureen Hams from Child Care Aware put the grant proposal together, along with their staffs. They collected input fro the City and Crookston ECI in putting it together, he said. “So it really was a collaborative effort,” Carlson said.