MONTPELIER — Loveworks has announced it will close three child-care centers, including one in Montpelier, in March.

News of the closure came in a release last week that stated the centers in Montpelier, Milton and Williston will close March 13. Two other centers, in Essex and Burlington, will remain open, but tuition will increase.

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.

The center opened to much fanfare, in part, because of a collaboration with National Life Insurance Group, which owns and leases the building at 24 Meadow View Drive, across the street from the company’s headquarters.

The facility had long been a child care center, previously operated by Kid Country Child Care for 30 years before closing.

Prior to the center reopening, National Life funded a renovation of the property that included painting, new carpet and some interior reconstruction.

Loveworks offered child care services for children ages 6 weeks through pre-kindergarten, Monday through Friday, with capacity for 49 children.

In the release, Loveworks said the closures would affect 25 employees and 85 children. The closures were blamed on budget constraints and meeting state requirements for teacher qualifications, the release added.

“While we love our community, these specific locations have proven too difficult to make financially sustainable,” the release stated. “While we remain grateful to all of our current teachers, it’s proven exceptionally difficult to consistently find early educators who meet minimum state requirements for teaching at this location.”

One parent who is affected by the closing of the Montpelier center is Meghan Nunes, whose 15-month-old son, Cameron, is enrolled.

Nunes, who is a working parent, said her son had been enrolled at the center for much of his life.

“Before I even got pregnant, we looked around for day care and we had it lined up when I was two months pregnant,” Nunes said. “We are transplants to Vermont, so we don’t have family around for any help, so it’s critical that we have child care in place, and effective March 13, we have nothing. It’s going to be 30-plus kids without day care.”

Nunes said she and her husband started “scrambling” to find other day care options and are on waiting lists for four different centers.

Nunes said her family was happy with the care provided at Loveworks, and would miss it after it closed.

“My son loves the teachers; we really like working with the teachers,” Nunes said. “It’s going to be really sad when we can’t see those teachers every day.”

Aly Richards, the CEO of Let’s Grow Kids, said the closures were symbolic of a growing crisis in Vermont.

“We were part of (the opening of Loveworks in Montpelier), working closely with National Life that is absolutely one of many and growing employers that is invested in this issue and understands the deep connection of accessible, high-quality, affordable child care for their workforce,” Richards said. “Frankly, it’s the bottom line for them and for Vermont and our economy.”

Richards said Let’s Grow Kids grew out of a need to address high-quality, affordable child care as a fundamental issue in the state.

“Seven out of 10 kids in Vermont under six have all available parents in the workforce,” Richards said. “Only 50% of infants and toddlers that need that care have access to regulated child care in Vermont, only a third of that is considered very high quality and, basically, none of its affordable.

“What we see, in some cases are some parents paying 40% of their household income on child care, more than any other expense in their lives, including rent,” she added.

Addressing the need to invest in the early childhood education workforce to address a broader overall workforce crisis in Vermont will be the subject of a news conference and report by Let’s Grow Kids at the State House today in the Cedar Creek Room, at 10 a.m.

stephen.mills @timesargus.com

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