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Mitchell Tech child care center to close

By Corey Friedman

For The Daily Republic

With nearly one staff member for every three kids, Mitchell Technical Institute says it can no longer afford to operate its Child Development Center and is closing the facility.

The center will close on May 9 as scheduled on the spring semester's last day, but will not reopen in August, according to Julie Brookbank, MTI's director of marketing and communications. The institute has offered on-site child care since 1986.

"We have tried numerous recruitment methods, including advertising for openings to the community," Brookbank said. "The staff members have made contact with other providers in town, and they've just done an awful lot of things to try to bring those numbers up."

Mitchell Tech's child care center has an average enrollment of 18 to 20 children, nine of whom belong to MTI students, Brookbank explained.

The center employs six child care providers and a cook.

"It has become evident over the last couple years that obviously we can't sustain that kind of ratio," she said.

Mitchell Tech will lay off those seven employees when the center closes its doors in May, Brookbank said.

The child development center has a $169,520 budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, and Brookbank said it has an estimated $50,000 shortfall this year.

MTI President Greg Von Wald said the facility's operating costs have increased as enrollment remained low.

Everyone at the institute is "emotionally attached to the child development center and to the great group of child care workers who are part of our team," Von Wald said in a Friday statement.

Declining enrollment at the center reflects a drop in the number of MTI students with children, officials said.

"We have tried a number of ways to keep operating costs down to include having staff members do their own janitorial work, hosting fundraisers and being very judicial in watching our expenses," Von Wald said. "However, the funding gap has continued to grow."