EDP hopes to help following announced closure of day care facility

Published 7:00 am Thursday, March 15, 2018

At a meeting of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership’s Executive Committee Wednesday morning, Danville Mayor Mike Perros said the EDP can’t do much directly about the impending closure of the day care facility A Children’s Place. But the EDP could work to ensure strong communication among businesses with employees who are losing their source of child care, he said.

“We’ve got to find some way to allow people with young children to come to work and have a place to put them,” Perros said. “And that’s a pretty large endeavor.”

EDP Chair Ben Nelson said there’s an immediate, short-term need to help the affected families “find child care that they are comfortable with.”

EDP Chair Ben Nelson said Wednesday there is a short-term need to find new child care services for parents affected by the pending closure of A Children’s Place; and a long-term need to determine what amount of child care service is needed in Boyle County. (Photo by Ben Kleppinger)

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“We are working on setting up a meeting (with Ephraim McDowell Health representatives) to help me understand better what are we doing to transition those families,” Nelson said. “And then, we know how many families are impacted, we know the employer group they are coming from. If I’m an employer and I have a number of families impacted, I’m going to care about that. 

“So the concept is instead of us all tripping over each other, could we come together and work to help those families in their transition?”

Ephraim McDowell Health, the parent company of Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, announced recently it will be closing A Children’s Place at the end of May; the center currently serves about 135 children, many of whom have parents working in the area.

Nelson said Ephraim McDowell Health is focused on meeting with affected families this week and attempting to help them find different child care that works for them.

Nelson said at one point in his career, he had the unenviable job of closing a factory in South Bend, Indiana, which put 400 people out of work.

“You focus your energy on trying to get them to a healthy new beginning so they’re not in mourning,” he said. “If you’re reading some of the emotions in the community right now over this, we need to help get them thinking about, ‘OK, here’s how you can help your children.’ And that’s where I think working together, we might (be able to provide) services.”

Nelson said a second, longer-term issue is determining what the needed child care capacity is in Boyle County and figuring out how to fill that need. One option might be setting up a child care cooperative, he said.

Marty Gibson, an EDP Executive Committee member representing Farmers National Bank, said when he was on a local planning committee for Danville Schools prior to implementation of the current restructuring underway, “there were some folks who came up with, ‘hey, maybe we should really enhance our preschool program even to the point where we begin to offer some day care-type services.”

But ultimately, the regulations the district would have to deal with, the potential liability risks and the perceived lack of need at the time meant that brainstorming idea went away, Gibson said.

“The biggest challenge at that point was the fact that their plan, that was already in existence, was so far down the road that trying to turn around … wasn’t going to make a whole lot of sense, because Toliver was so close to being done. So the conversation ended because of that.”

Mayor Perros noted that Jennie Rogers Elementary is now going to be used for preschool-first grade students while Hogsett Elementary is renovated, but he wondered aloud if once those students are moved into the renovated Hogsett, vacant space in the Jennie Rogers building could be used for a day care space.

“At some point, Jennie Rogers is going to be vacant. Now that’s later on down the road and time being what it is, that may not work,” Perros said.

Gibson said it can be challenging to renovate a school space to meet standards for day care space.

EDP President Jody Lassiter said he has been in contact with a local child care provider “that’s been discussing an expansion for some time,” as well as a developer and manager of multiple day care facilities in the Cincinnati area and Lexington who used to live in Danville to see if there’s interest in opening a new facility in Boyle County.

“What we have to make clear to the community is that Ephraim is retaining the building and developing it, redeveloping it for other health care practices. So the challenge will be finding a facility in which to operate a larger child care facility,” Lassiter said. “We recognize that there’s a business opportunity here. And we stand ready to assist either our existing local providers as a priority, but also looking for others that may want to locate here and capture 130 kids as an opportunity.”