Truman tries to save daycare

TRUMAN – What began as a proposal to close the child care program at the Truman school at the end of the year evolved into a staunch show of support from the program’s staff and parents at the Truman School Board meeting Monday.

“I regret to recommend that the school district should no longer operate the child care program after Dec. 31,” Superintendent Tom Ames told the school board.

An operating deficit of almost $2,000 to run the center during the month of September was “taking funds we just don’t have,” Ames said.

Mindy Cook, director of the center, told the board that more time is needed to fully realize the benefits the center can provide to the school district.

“Our numbers are just cut and dried,” she said.

The center opened in 2012, but obtaining licensing for younger children under the age of 33 months was delayed until this fall. Cook said the original plan was for the district to support the center for the first two years of operation.

“There are other suggestions we could look into before we just close the door,” she said. “There’s a gamut of options to consider.” Changing the hours of operation, using a flat rate system or offering a discount for families with multiple children are unexplored possibilities.

Samantha Egness and her husband, Michael, recently moved to Truman, and their son attends the center.

“It’s been a godsend,” she said. “If we have a community effort, we can make it work.”

Egness, who works in Fairmont, said she planned to have her son attend school in Truman, but if the center closed, she would find child care in Fairmont and ultimately, her son would attend school there.

One of the original purposes of the center was to use it as a feeder program for the district. Parents would enroll their young children in the child care center and eventually enroll them as students at the school.

“Part of the reason we did this was to gain kids in enrollment,” said Paula Kester, school board member. “I understand why we’re talking about it. I also think closing it down at the end of the year is too quick.”

Jessica Meyer, another parent who uses the center, suggested better advertising would inform people of what is available.

“I live across from the school, and I didn’t know there was a day care there,” she said.

After hearing the enthusiastic support for the center, Ames suggested a committee of board members, community members, center staff and parents meet to brainstorm on ideas to improve the center’s bottom line. Center staff can implement the suggestions without board approval.

“We’d like to see it succeed and be more self-sustaining than it is now,” said Mike Pfeil, board chairman.

In other business, the board ratified a two-year contract with the teachers union, pending approval by the union. The contract calls for a 1 percent increase the first year and a 1 1/2 percent increase the second year.