A place for Little Saints: New day care in old school building has had no problem attracting parents
NEW ENGLAND -- There is a new childcare center in New England and young parents are taking notice. The Little Saints Day Care, located in the old St. Mary's School in New England and playing off the old school's athletic nickname, opened last Aug...
NEW ENGLAND - There is a new childcare center in New England and young parents are taking notice.
The Little Saints Day Care, located in the old St. Mary’s School in New England and playing off the old school’s athletic nickname, opened last August and business has been booming ever since.
“The whole thing went like lightning,” said Tara Bieber, owner of the day care. “We started talking about it in April and we were open by August.”
The renovated facility, complete with designated spaces for nap-time, arts and crafts, playtime, a nursery for infants and a cafeteria that doubles as a homework space for school-aged children, has given New England and the surrounding region something it had been missing: a spacious, fully equipped day care.
At first, the day care had a license to care for 30 children, but with the number of kids showing up for after-school programs, Bieber said the center had to apply for another license. She said Little Saints can accept infants and children from ages one to 12 years old.
“We have quite a few 12-year-olds after school,” Bieber said, adding that the bus service that the New England Public School provides is a huge benefit to the facility.
Bieber said the day care was started using a mix of sales tax revenue from New England, grant funding from the state and personal start-up money. She said prior to opening in August, there had to be significant renovations to the old school, including electrical and plumbing work.
“It was crying out for something to be done,” Bieber said. “There is a day care shortage all over.”
Bieber is a registered nurse who works in Hettinger, but she said that she often prepares meals for the kids before heading to her primary job.
“I don’t do much besides cook, clean and pay bills,” Bieber said.
Prior to Little Saints opening in August, there was one day care operating in New England, but after discussions with the manager of that facility, Corrie Urlacher, it was agreed that moving the staff and business to the old school would be a better choice.
Urlacher, who now manages the new childcare facility, said the old St. Mary’s school offers more room for activities and allows the day care to accept more customers. At the previous day care, she said they couldn’t legally care for any more children because they were at their permitted capacity.
“There’s more room here,” Urlacher said. “We were turning people away constantly.”
Urlacher said she has worked in childcare facilities since she was 15 years old. She said her first job was helping her mother run a day care in Dickinson.
“I just love to work with the kids,” Urlacher said.
Currently, the day care and afterschool program is staffed by 11 people, Bieber said. Four of them came from the smaller day care and several are retired teachers who assist the school-aged children.
“I’ve had my own kids in day cares,” Bieber said, “and I’ve seen the pros and cons.”
Bieber said the Little Saints day care’s spacious setting, inside the old St. Mary’s School helps to foster a good learning environment for all of the kids, no matter what age they are. She said there are already plans to improve the center by upgrading the arts and crafts area and the nursery.
“There is something to be said for large groups of kids participating in activities,” Bieber said.
While Bieber originally thought Little Saints would attract a lot of people who moved to North Dakota for work in the oil industry, she said many of the day care’s parents are long-time residents of the area.
“About 98 percent of enrollment is not in oil industry,” Bieber said, adding that fact gives her confidence the business will survive even if oil prices continue to slump and have a long-term effect on the area.
Bieber said she hasn’t advertised the new day care much to this point, because she wanted to make sure the new facility could meet the initial demand first.
“It’s been such a nice gradual growth that we’ve been able to keep up,” Bieber said. “It’s just shocking that the parents didn’t have this before.”
Brown is a regional reporter for
The Dickinson Press. Contact him
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