Garnavillo Daycare opens new addition

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The toddler room (above) has bright blue walls and cheery red tables and chairs. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

An aging facility that was no longer energy efficient, and a growing waiting list for quality local daycare was the catalyst that prompted Garnavillo Community Daycare board members to begin discussing plans to build a new child care facility as a long-term plan in 2019.  

"Our original center was temporary classrooms used by the Garnavillo School District that we purchased from the district for a low cost in 2002," said Business Director Lisa Robinson. "We remodeled them to meet our needs and they have served their purpose for 20 years. However, they are not energy efficient and are 50 years old." 

A demand for quality day care continued to grow following the board's original decision to expand. "We had a waiting list for child care that had grown throughout the years," commented Robinson. "When COVID-19 hit in 2020 and the importance of child care came to the forefront of the legislative agenda, a new child care grant initiative called Investing in Iowa Child Care was initiated by the State of Iowa in early 2021 and that grant opportunity accelerated our plans."

Initially the board was not able to apply for the grant money, but was ready to submit an application if additional funding became available. 

In the summer of 2021, with 17 children on their waiting list, the daycare provider began fundraising efforts with a capital campaign 'The community responded generously with donations in excess of $175,000. We applied for a grant in a joint application to the Iowa Department of Human Services and Iowa Workforce Development called the Investing in Iowa Child Care Challenge Grant," explained Robinson. "The purpose of the grant was to increase the number of available child care slots across the state. We completed the application in December 2021 and were awarded $387,250 in March 2022." 

The completed project was estimated to cost $750,000. 

Garnavillo Community Daycare also received additional funding from: 

• Iowa Department of Human Services stabilization program - $275,320

• Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation for classroom furnishings - $11,000 

• Clayton County Foundation for the Future - $812.96

• Alpine Communications for new technology - $300. 

Organizers tried to hire local contractors and utilize area businesses for the project. Many community members also stepped up to assist. "We had numerous volunteers help in many areas of the project. We had donations of labor, materials, and services that really helped keep the cost down and sped up the project, from tree removal, to use of a tractor and dump wagon to move dirt, use of a dump truck to haul dirt, use of a skid loader to backfill, use of a dumpster, use of land to stockpile dirt and donations of storage units for equipment. We had a group of 16 volunteers in mid-December move all our equipment from storage of the old center into the new building," Robinson listed with gratitude. 

The addition will increase the day care providers licensed capacity from 45 to 74 kids. "We have an infant, 1 year old, toddler, and preschool room in the new addition along with a kitchen, laundry, staff bathroom and mechanical room," she described. "We were able to re-purpose two rooms in the old center dedicated exclusively for our school age children. We are able to double the number of kids in the zero to age two category, as infants comprise most of our waiting list."

The addition created a need for two full-time and four part-time positions. "We have filled three of those positions, but still need one full-time and two part-time employees," she noted. 

The building project had to overcome a few hurdles. "We had a couple of delays due to our inexperience in receiving regulatory approval of the building plans, which put us a month behind schedule," she told The Press, "However, we were able to get the building completed in six months from start to finish once we cleared that hurdle thanks to great contractors."

The daycare children were fascinated by the building project. "It started with the children sitting outside to watch the cement pumper and workers when the floor was poured," Robinson shared. "We posted weekly progress pictures on the daycare Facebook page to keep parents and the community informed and excited about the project. We started giving tours whenever someone asked on the progress, and had a steady stream of parents and community members alike all throughout the construction."

Garnavillo Community Daycare opened the doors of the completed addition on Jan. 3. "The staff was great in helping parents and kids alike find their way into the new center. It felt like the first day in a new school. The extra space, new equipment and toys created a huge amount of excitement for kids, parents, staff and the board," she concluded with a smile.

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