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Work continues on St. Mary’s Early Learning Center

December 20, 2018

Parents in Butler County will soon have new child care options.

The Holy Family Early Learning Center will be located on the St. Mary’s Catholic School campus in David City and provide child care for kids as young as 6-weeks to pre-kindergarteners. Construction began in August and Chief Administration Officer The Rev. Sean Timmerman said officials hope to have it finished by July 2019.

“We see this as a great opportunity to have a (child care) facility right next to our preschool,” Timmerman said. “We want this to be an early childhood development center, but also with our Catholic faith formation included in that, too. So we want it to be a nice stepping stone for children as they go from Holy Family to St. Mary’s School then up here to Aquinas.”

St. Mary’s principal Sarah Zook said the center will have four rooms, each one separately dedicated to infants, toddlers, preschool and pre-kindergarten-age children. Currently, St. Mary’s is using a building on its campus as a daycare center for 12 children. The new facility will have a maximum capacity of 80 students. Zook said with 20 students on a waiting list along with the current 12, the new center will immediately see use upon completion.

“One of the big things is just the ability to have all your kids in one place,” Zook said about the center and its proximity to St. Mary’s. “To be able to do one drop for all your kids is just really convenient.”

The property, located on a corner lot on North Sixth and J streets, was donated to the school by its previous owners. The house previously residing on the property was torn down to make way for construction, Timmerman said. Once completed, St. Mary’s will possibly hire two additional staff members to help run the center, but Zook said it will depend on the number of students enrolled.

The lack of childcare options in the county is what Zook said encouraged the school to begin work on the project.

“That’s what prompted it, the community was desperately short of childcare, especially drop-in child care,” Zook said.“That need kind of percolated up over the last two years.”

Gary Meister Construction of David City was brought on as the general contractor for the project. The center will have modern security systems in place in order to protect students. A storm shelter will be built into the building in the case of an emergency, Zook said.

The current estimated cost of the project is about $600,000. Timmerman said all funds for the project come from private fundraising events and donations, with nothing coming out of the school’s budget. A $2,500 grant was recently awarded from The Butler County Area Foundation to help purchase playground equipment for the center.

Aquinas High School’s Building Trades course is assisting with the construction of the center. Since 1999, the program has had students learn hands-on skills by building houses that were sold to members of the community to recuperate the construction costs. Students are now focusing their energy on helping with different components of the Learning Center.

The daycare center is scheduled to be open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Timmerman said this facility will not only provide education and child care but also instill Catholic values.

“We want this to be more than a glorified day care center,” Timmerman said. “It’s a great way for us to help parents in the Catholic formation of their children and also for a lot of early childhood development things as well.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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