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Mitchell's largest daycare to shut doors

The Learning Garden, pictured here, will close its doors on Nov. 20. (Laura Wehde/Republic Photo)

Several Mitchell parents will be scrambling to find alternate day care after the city's largest provider announced it will close Nov. 20.

Learning Garden, 410 W. Second Ave., is shutting its doors because of a substantial loss of enrollment. The center is licensed for 165 children ages 4 weeks to 12 years and had 186 kids last October, Director Jennifer Doyle said. But last month, only 62 attended.

Doyle said she faces an abundance of overhead costs, including building maintenance, utilities, insurance and paying qualified staff with early childhood degrees.

Now, she plans to downsize to where she started -- an in-home day care with up to 12 children.

"We really found last year with the economy that families have been changing child care," Doyle said, noting that parents, grandparents or laid-off friends more frequently are watching children.

"This has been my dream -- having a center this large."

In Mitchell, parents may find that some other day care centers -- at least those listed in the Yellow Pages and at -- are largely full. A survey of those centers found that only two preschool-age child openings were available at Sugar & Spice Daycare & Preschool, owner Christy Norwick said. She cares for children ages 4 weeks to 6 years old. "(Parents) are going to have a hard time because most all of us are full," Norwick said. First Lutheran Child Learning Center has no openings, with 60 children ages 3 to 6 enrolled, Director Lynne Vermeulen said.

Erin Novotny, Bright Beginnings Education Center director, said she fielded a lot of calls Wednesday morning from Learning Garden parents. The center, which is licensed for 60 children ages 4 weeks to 5, has been full for a year.

"We are taking applications and having people fill them out and put (them) on a waiting list," she said.

Because Mitchell day care centers aren't required to register with the city, there is little the city can do to address the issue.

"Hopefully, the need will be met by providers stepping up to the plate," said Geri Beck, a City Council member.

Kaylee Nicolaisen heard the news about Learning Garden Wednesday morning when she dropped off her daughter, Madison, 14 months old.

"Everybody, I think, goes into emergency mode. What are we doing to do, because this is our children's day-today life, too?" she said. "Not only do you deal with the stress of trying to find another day care, but transitioning children into a completely different schedule every day."

Nicolaisen heard of an inhome provider who had an opening and planned to attend an interview with her Wednesday night.

Stacy Tobin learned about the closing as she picked up her 10-month-old son, Jonathan Hale, from Learning Garden late Wednesday afternoon.

"I am definitely in shock. I feel for both her and everyone that works there and all the other kids," she said. "... It's especially hard for infants under 1 to find day care."

Tobin just moved to Mitchell and found the center a couple months ago after using an inhome setting. Now, she'll begin the process again.

"It was like a school setting -- real classrooms," she said. "It was perfect."