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First Reformed Church, Mitchell, could be home to a new preschool and daycare, if approved by the Mitchell City Council. (Laura Wehde/Republic Photo)

Parents could soon have another option for preschool and daycare

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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Mitchell-area parents could have another preschool and daycare option if Mitchell Christian School gains approval Monday from the City Council to operate a center at First Reformed Church.

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The Mitchell Planning and Zoning Commission recommended this week that the council grant a conditional-use permit for the preschool and daycare, City Planner Neil Putnam said. The permit is needed because the church is in a medium-density residential zone,, which would not otherwise allow for a preschool and daycare.

Greg Buche, Mitchell Christian development director, said the idea stemmed from advice he heard at a conference last fall that every Christian school should have a daycare.

A week or so later, he discovered that The Learning Garden -- at the time, Mitchell's largest daycare -- was closing.

"From what I have been seeing so far, I believe this is something we should be doing," he said. "We can offer something that is unique to the community that others may not offer. We can offer something that can continue on the same (school) system."

The year-round preschool and daycare would be licensed for up to 40 children ages 3 to 5, with six to eight full- and part-time staff, Buche said. A full-time director would be hired as well.

Mitchell Christian's prekindergarten teacher, Saundra Nash, conducts those classes from 8 to 11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Children could travel to the school for classes and back to the church for daycare, Buche said.

"For one price, they'd be able to take advantage of both."

The school looked at several locations, searching for one close to the school. Mitchell Christian officials settled on First Reformed Church, at 516 W. 14th Ave., because it is near the school and in a visible area, Buche said.

Buche approached First Reformed officials in late November or early December about the possibility of locating there, the Rev. Dean Ulmer said. The congregation approved the preschool proposal on Jan. 17.

"We looked at it as an opportunity to link together in ministry," Ulmer said.

Mitchell Christian will use some educational rooms in the church for the preschool-daycare.

The school must add some fire-alarm and stove-venting systems, a dishwasher and a fence for a playground at the church, Buche said.

The potential addition of Mitchell Christian's preschool and daycare could fill a void in the community, according to Lynne Vermeulen, director of First Lutheran Child Learning Center. That daycare is full with 60 children ages 3 to 6, with at least 100 on a waiting list.

"I think it's probably a needed program after the loss of the last daycare," she said.

If approved by the City Council, the preschool-daycare will open this summer, Buche said.

If the center is successful, Mitchell Christian hopes to expand it to children younger than 3 and possibly build an addition onto the current school building. At that point, the entire preschool-daycare operation would be moved to the school.

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