MONTPELIER — A Capital City child care center has been saved from closure.
Loveworks, at 24 Mountainview St., was due to close March 13, but will reopen under new management by Montpelier Children’s House on March 16.
Loveworks announced last month it would close three centers in Montpelier, Milton and Williston. Two other centers, in Essex and Burlington, will remain open, but tuition will increase. The closures were blamed on budget constraints and meeting state requirements for teacher qualifications.
Loveworks was created in 2016 as a new branch of the Heartworks, Renaissance, and Endeavor Schools organization, and the Montpelier center was the first to open in January 2017. Prior to the announcement about the closures, Loveworks and two other child care center operations were acquired by Little Sprouts in November 2018.
News of the change of leadership at the Montpelier Loveworks child care center came from National Life Insurance Group on Wednesday. National Life owns and leases the building to Loveworks, and has been working closely with child care advocates Let’s Grow Kids Vermont to find an alternative to closure of the child care center.
“We understand how difficult it is to find high-quality affordable child care in our community,” said Beth Rusnock, president of National Life Group Foundation, the charitable division of the company. “That’s why we partnered with Let’s Grow Kids to quickly identify the best options for this space, one of which was Montpelier Children’s House.
“They have an excellent reputation and decades of experience. We’re looking forward to welcoming them as a neighbor within the next few weeks,” she added.
Montpelier Children’s House has operated at 41 Barre St. for the past 35 years and was started by Larry Parker.
Parker’s daughter, Samara Parker Mays, has been the current owner of the center for 10 years and is also a director and teacher at the center. The center currently serves 21 families and between 18 and 19 children, aged 3 to 5, a day.
Mays said Montpelier Children’s House had outgrown its space, which is owned by Downstreet Housing and Development in Barre, and needed to expand its facilities and would move its operations to Mountainview Street on July 1. Parents with children at Loveworks would be allowed to remain enrolled in the child care center under new management by Montpelier Children’s Center, which also hopes to expand enrollment at a later date to include infants and toddlers. Mays said both child care centers would continue to operate concurrently until July.
Mays noted that the move would increase limited indoor and outdoor space at the Barre Street site, improve parking and provide access to two playgrounds, woods and trails at the Mountainview Street site.
In a letter to the parents of children at Montpelier Children’s Center, Mays said reopening the former Loveworks on March 16 was contingent on successful licensing of the space through the Child Development Division, which is expected to occur.
“We’re really excited for the opportunity,” Mays said Wednesday. “We’ve been thinking about expanding for the last couple of years with the space we have because there’s no room to grow. ... And I’ve been acutely aware of the need for infant and toddler care in the community, so I had hoped to be able to find some space that would allow us to expand into infant and toddler care.”
She went on: “So, we were looking for available space and this opportunity came up and seemed like this was a good way for us to expand and grow our program, and also retain slots that were in jeopardy.”
Mays said there had been a positive response to the move and expansion of Montpelier Children’s House, and retaining existing child care spaces.
“It’s a problem across the state, and we know it’s particularly acute in Washington County. For every single infant and toddler slot, there’s a waiting list in every program and it’s tremendously difficult to find alternative care, if they find themselves in that position,” Mays said.
Mays also credited Let’s Grow Kids for its work to allow the Loveworks site to continue to operate under new management.
Abram, Nunes, director of operations at National Life, whose 15-month-old son, Cameron, attends Loveworks, said he was “relieved” that the child care center would continue to operate under new management.
“I’m happy that it’s a local individual that’s taking over,” Nunes said. “There are a lot of people who have been working very hard behind the scenes.”
Nunes also noted that the closing of child care centers and the shortage of spaces for children was still a major concern for many parents.
“For us, this worked out very positively, but there hasn’t been any change, as a result of this yet, that has changed the underlying factors, like teachers being under-compensated, the lack of options out there – it’s still a kind of broken system, and this situation kind of shed light on it,” Nunes said.
Aly Richards, CEO of Let’s Grow Kids, credited National Life.
“National Life is one of several Vermont businesses that we’ve been working with to help employers find ways to support the child care needs of their employees,” Richards said. “After Loveworks announced it would have to close its Montpelier child care location, we worked with National Life to find alternatives that could prevent families from scrambling to find quality child care.
“Here’s the truth: Kids under six just aren’t at home anymore. We know that 70% of Vermont kids under six have all parents in the workforce and we know that three out of five of Vermont’s youngest children don’t have access to the care they need. ... That’s because the economics of child care don’t work right now,” Richards said. “Families can’t afford to pay more and early educators can’t afford to earn less. We urgently need to invest in Vermont’s early childhood education workforce to start chipping away at this crisis.”