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Cali Owings, Published January 08 2014

School closings put day care providers and parents in a pinch

WEST FARGO - When area school districts decided to close Monday due to extreme temperatures, many day care providers followed suit.

Thinking the closure would put some parents in a bind, Bridget Lundgren saw an opportunity.

“Your daycare closed on January 6 because of the cold. I am open,” Lundgren posted on Craigslist, hoping to attract drop-in clients to the West Fargo home day care she started in October.

Though her post didn’t yield new clients, Lundgren said it was important to stay open for the three families she regularly serves. She rarely closes.

In cases of bad weather, day care providers have to make a tough call – close along with the schools to ensure the safety of staff and children, or remain open for the working parents whose employers aren’t likely to shutter their doors.

Stacy Thomsen wasn’t happy her south Moorhead day care closed on Monday. While she understood why schools would close due to busing issues, she said it made little sense for day care providers.

“It’s no warmer at my home than it is at a day care,” Thomsen said.

She likened it to any other business that stayed open during the cold – dry cleaners, grocery stores and restaurants – and said it is inconvenient for parents.

Luckily, it wasn’t hard to find care for her 3-year-old daughter because her husband decided to stay home.

Sunrise-Sunset Preschool and Childcare Center usually doesn’t close until three hours after the West Acres mall closes, said director Danielle Lynnes.

The mall is usually the last business in town to close during hazardous weather, she said.

Clients at the day care facility in West Fargo represent a variety of jobs and positions in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and the center wants to be reliable for parents.

“Everybody has a job, and they have to have a place for their kids to go,” she said.

If schools were closed due to blizzard conditions and bad roads instead of cold weather, deciding whether to close Creative Learning Child Care in West Fargo would have been easier for Alicia Myer.

Her usual policy is to follow the school closings, but when it’s “clear as a bell outside,” it’s a tough call.

Myer said she toyed with the idea for an hour Sunday night before deciding to go against her policy and open the center Monday.

While some parents have the flexibility to stay home or find other care options for their children, Myer said many do not and appreciated that Creative Learning was open.

To ensure safety, Myer said her assistant went in early to reset the building’s heating unit and make sure the facility was warmed up before children arrived during Monday’s dangerously low temperatures.

All of the YMCA’s before- and after-school child care centers housed in local schools were closed Monday, but its five off-site centers remained open.

YMCA Director Paul Finstad said they consider the weather and “what businesses and organizations that might need us available might be doing” when deciding whether to close.

Even though the Y’s five centers remained open, Finstad said numbers were down across the board. He said some parents may have stayed home or lined up other care such as an older sibling.

“Parents that knew we had the child care available appreciated it because they had to go in to work,” he said.

Candace Tryan is often a fill-in child care provider for her grandchildren.

“A lot of parents aren’t as fortunate,” Tryan said while watching her granddaughters play at Courts Plus indoor park. She said her daughter was on a point system at one of her jobs and accumulated disciplinary points if she stayed home.

Because Tryan owns her own business, she tries to help out as often as she can.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like for some people. If both parents work, I’m sure some of them have to stay home,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599