Barbara Howe, director of Open Door Nursery School on West Third Street, is worried about the number of vacancies in daycares and preschools citywide.
“I think a lot of parents are having to make decisions financially,” Howe said on Tuesday. “There are things that have to go and unfortunately, nursery school is one of them.”
Howe said her concern about enrollment increased when she learned a Dundas business owner had plans to build a Goddard School franchise in Northfield.
That business owner, Jesse Streitz, has said he might apply for one of the city’s forgivable or low-interest loan programs in the amount of about $15,500, which would offset some city-associated expenses with buying the land for the $1.9 million school project.
“It’s not that I’m against other schools coming into the city,” Howe said. “I’m trying to say that if there’s another school with a lot of openings, it could be catastrophic for those of us who are already here. So, I would just rather not see tax dollars used to assist the Goddard School in that way.”
Streitz has said Goddard School Systems administrators performed market research that shows a school would be viable in Northfield, however, and that a Goddard School franchise has yet to fail in the company’s 20-year history.
Howe called all the preschool and daycare facilities across the city that she knew of to ask for their enrollment numbers. She also had conversations with people who run daycares from their homes. She said she believes the information she collected indicates some schools could be in a “grave situation.”
The facilities and enrollments, listed in alphabetical order are: Early Ventures daycare, 3 of 57 spots are open; Grandpa’s Farm, 10 of 14 spots open; Hand-in-Hand, two of 84 open; A Child’s Delight Too, eight of 46 spots open; Northfield Day Care, eight of 20 open; Northfield Montessori, 50 of 186 spots open; Northfield Nursery School, 21 of 74 open; and Saint Dominic’s, 17 of 40 open.
There are 10 openings at Open Door, which has an 80-child capacity. Howe said even though some of the enrollment numbers do not seem low, many of the schools are used to having a waiting list.
“In the past, we usually had a waiting list with 15 to 25 people on it,” Howe said of Open Door. “So, this is a dramatic change that we’re looking at.”
As for home-run daycare facilities, Stacy Waters of the Northfield Daycare Association said she has not seen a decrease in infant enrollment in her business, but she is still nervous about her job.
“I worry about my job just like everybody else in this economy,” Waters said. “If parents start losing jobs, then they stay at home or they can’t afford daycare.”
Victor Summa, a member of Northfield’s Economic Development Authority, said he knows of no rule that prevents city officials from issuing a loan to a business that would potentially enter a saturated market.
“It’s almost a moral judgment,” Summa said.
The loans, he said, are supposed to be in an amount that is a small fraction of the business owner’s total investment in the business. The loans create a “slightly more favorable situation,” Summa said, for businesses to come into the city and hopefully generate jobs and tax dollars.