On Tuesday July 18th, there was a child care meeting at the Granite Falls city hall to discuss the lack of child care in the area and the Prairieland Care Center closing. The group that consisted of Prairieland workers, parents, soon to be parents, city and county officials and daycare providers, talked about possible care options ranging from a new Prairieland day care to more family daycares opening, and even hiring a nanny. There were two parents that said when Prairieland closes one of them might have to quit their job, they also said there wouldn’t be a daycare option within a 20-mile radius.
A representative from Prairie Five (the company that owned the Prairieland daycare) said they are willing to help the community and even help replace Prairieland, but made it clear their decision is final. One of the parents complained of not being properly notified, the representative said they mailed out letters to all the parents, but the parent said they didn’t get a letter and even called and asked to have one mailed and still didn’t get one. Throughout the meeting there were some obvious feelings of confusion, anger, and stress with the situation that would lead to some more heated debate.
After some more discussion a local day care provider said she felt like it was too much of a hostile environment to share her thoughts and that she, along with a lot of the parents, was upset with the lack of care options provided at the meeting. One of the biggest issues about opening a day care center is licensing which could take months to finalize. That left a lot of parents and city officials with the uncertainty of knowing when and if they could provide children with care before the closing of Prairieland in December. There was the discussion of Bert Raney Elementary expanding their Pre-K classes and collaborating with a daycare at Prairieland, but that seemed unlikely.
There were multiple questions asked about what the county and city could do to help provide care and Mayor, Dave Smiglewski, who was in attendance at the meeting and shared his thoughts on the situation. “I think it’s important enough, that someone better damn well better start thinking about this … Why the Prairie Five board decided they could not afford to continue this I’m not sure … Not everything in life pays it’s own way. There isn’t a single police force that pays it’s own way, not a single street, park, or fire department that pays it’s own way … Yet that’s a very necessary cost of living in society.” Smiglewski continued, “Daycare is just as important, and why we as a society don’t put value on that i’m not sure … What can the city do? I don’t know. The county commissioners that are on the Prairie Five board decided they don’t have to have anything to do with this. That’s fine, but I’m not sure I agree with that, and I’m not sure how I agree with how this went down … We went from having talks about expanding the daycare operation to closing it in about a 6 day period … I don’t know what happened, but it seems to me that this is so important someone has to do something … I don’t mean just the city, the city certainly has to do something, maybe the county can play a role, maybe the school district (Yellow Medicine East) can play a role … Somebody better.” As the meeting went on it was decided they would meet again at a later date, and that there would be more information on a possible new operation that could replace Prairieland. Even though some questions were answered a majority of parents and providers left the meeting confused and uncertain with the future of child care in the Granite Falls area, and a lot of parents still don’t know what they are going to do after Prairieland closes.