Exact intent of meeting isn’t clear to everyone involved

    A meeting will take place Monday at 7 p.m. at Washington School having to do with child care and the major shortage of licensed slots in Crookston that various community leaders are working diligently to ease.

    The City of Crookston alerted the media to the meeting Friday because there’s a possibility that a quorum of city council members will attend. The meeting announcement states that the agenda includes “public input and discussion regarding child care.”

    What role, if any, Washington School can serve as efforts continue to put a significant dent in the local child care shortage remains to be seen. Monday’s meeting comes in advance of a CHEDA Board of Directors meeting later this month, at which CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth, at his board’s request, will provide hard numbers regarding the placement of a non-profit child care center for 60 to 100 infants and children east of Crookston on U.S. Highway 2, at the former Sisters of St. Joseph Marywood Residence/Glenmore Recovery Center. Developer Jeff Evers owns the building, and he’s working with current child care provider Erika Leckie and her husband, Scott Leckie, and a committee of local and area experts and stakeholders on making “Regal Academy Child Care Center” a reality at the location.

    Crookston Mayor Guy Martin, who previously said he was getting pushback from members of the community concerned about locating a child care center outside city limits, is the driving force behind Monday’s meeting at Washington School.

    “Mayor Martin asked that we pull together a group of people with interest and background in child care,” City Administrator Shannon Stassen told the Times Monday in an email. “The topic of aligning with the school district and other organizations to deliver high-quality child care and explore every option inside of Crookston is a goal.”

    Hoiseth and the committee have said they have researched numerous potential sites for a child care center within city limits, and none to date have fit the bill, whether it’s because of a lack of available space or excessive costs.

    Stassen acknowledged, and School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson confirmed, that there isn’t room at Washington School for a large child care center, or in any other school district building. First grade is poised to leave Washington School and join Highland School in the fall, but most of the space they’re vacating at Washington School will be taken up by expanded preschool and Early Childhood Family Education programming, Olson told the Times Monday. It’s perhaps possible, Stassen said, that “family child care options” could be available at Washington School.

    “I’ve told everyone all along that we don’t have the room,” Olson noted. “I think maybe they’re looking further down the road, if the City was somehow able to partner with the school district. We always want to look at opportunities to form positive partnerships.”

    Hoiseth told the Times that he doesn’t “know much” about Monday’s meeting but that he will try to attend.