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Child care center closing to public

Abilene Reflector-Chroncle - 10/9/2019

Oct. 8--Twenty families involving 25 children preschool to age 12 were informed last week that Learn & Grow Depot would no longer be open for kids from the public.

Learn & Grow, a child care facility, will continue to provide child care only for employees of Memorial Health System effective Jan. 1.

"The mission of Learn & Grow Depot has always been to take care of employees' children. We currently have employees' children on the waiting list and cannot provide that benefit," parents were informed in a letter Wednesday.

Learn & Grow is owned and operated by Memorial Health System.

Memorial Health System staff and members of the Board of Trustees plan to meet with those non-employee parents at a meeting Tuesday night.

"I think we should go face-to-face with parents," said Harold Courtois, chief executive officer for Memorial Health System. "Maybe someone has a good solution."

He said someone leasing the facility, on a condition that MHS children would have priority, is a possibility.

The meeting Tuesday is to discuss options with parents.

Courtois said the issue is lack of qualified staff.

"Staffing teachers for a large number of children has always been a challenge. With fewer children, that challenge will be reduced," the letter said.

The facility that opened in November 2007 is licensed for 60 children ages 6 weeks to 12 years. On Monday there were 45 students, 19 of whom were Memorial Health employee children. The depot is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Despite two job fairs and salary raises, Courtois said, Learn & Grow has come close to telling parents that because of lack of staff, it would be unable to care for the child that day.

He said a child care facility has to follow procedures to conduct background checks and to license employees.

"We are continuing to recruit and retain employees and need to make sure we have room for future employees' children," the letter said.

Courtois said it has been suggested that Learn & Grow just raise prices.

"People have to be able to afford childcare," he said.

Current fees are $185 a week for infants; $155 for walking to 2.5 years of age; $145 for 2.5 to 3 years old, $135 for preschool; and $24 for days out of school care.

"Our primary mission is to provide health care to the public," Courtois said. "I do not want the hospital to become a burden to the citizens of our taxing district, as that creates problems, as well."

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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