Truman daycare center near opening

TRUMAN – It has been a year in the making, a year encompassing setbacks and frustrations, but Truman Public Schools’ Child Care Center is finally accepting infant and toddlers into its program.

The center opened last fall under school district licensure for preschool and school-aged kids, but accepting babies and toddlers younger than 33 months meant getting additional licensing, a process that was drawn out but necessary.

Without the ability to accept younger children, the daycare budget was consistently operating in the red.

Mindy Cook, director of the center, said the school first applied with the state to be able to accept younger kids, something for which there is a need in town.

“The papers sat there for two months before the state suggested we go through the county [for licensure],” Cook said.

The change meant the district had to start from scratch.

“Months of paperwork was null and void,” she said.

Once the new paperwork was submitted, the district learned the license issuer was on medical leave, and later resigned, leaving the school’s appeal to languish while someone was hired and trained to take over the task.

But Truman didn’t sit idle while it waited.

The district knew of changes that would be required – such as a custom window and a specific type of door hinge – and went ahead with ordering those upgrades.

With a county licenser ready, and building changes complete, the daycare was finally approved to take babies, nearly a year after beginning the process.

For the district, accepting young children into its daycare is more than a philanthropic endeavor. With enrollment concerns looming in the background, the district had hopes that beginning the daycare would serve as a feeder program to the elementary school, as it familiarizes parents with what is available in their own community. Accepting children as early as 6 weeks old fills a need for parents in finding childcare for a notoriously difficult age range, but also sets them up for a long relationship with Truman Schools. In addition, the curriculum-based structure of the program is expected to help bring children into kindergarten on equal footing.

Cook said having younger children in the program makes sense for families with more than one child. Preschoolers often have younger siblings, and having them at the same daycare is common sense.

School Principal Tate Jerome said the district didn’t expect the daycare to be cash-rich.

“What we saw with other [district daycare programs] was that you might not have a money-maker right away,” he said. “Sometimes you lose money. … It is a service.”

The district lost money on the project during its first year. A typical month cost the district $1,000.

Additional children will bring the amount lost down, but will increase staffing needs. Cook expects the daycare to begin accepting babies and toddlers in October.

Cook applied to be allowed the maximum number of children licensed by the county, but foresees caring for a handful of babies and toddlers, and up to 20 preschool and school-age children.