Bailey Daycare Threatened with Closure

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Thursday, September 18, 2014, 8:16 am
Alice Dreger

In a recent meeting with a group of concerned citizens, City Manager George Lahanas revealed he is planning on September 23 to ask City Council to close the daycare center at Bailey Community Center. Bailey residents fear that the ultimate endpoint of this process may be closure of the Bailey Community Center as well as possible sale of the Bailey school building. The motivation for the closing is primarily budgetary.

In the meeting with representatives of the Bailey Community Association as well as parents who will be directly affected, Lahanas said that the daycare is responsible for a substantial financial loss to the City this year. In response to questions from ELi, Tim McCaffrey, Director of Parks, Recreation & Arts, said, “The Early Age Childcare program at Bailey Community Center recorded an operating budget deficit of $100,000 in the just completed fiscal year.”

Vic Loomis, former mayor of East Lansing, used the Bailey daycare and the city-operated before-and-after-school care at the elementary schools for his own daughters and says, “It was a tremendous service.” He described the possible closure of the daycare as “unfortunate” and recalled that when the city offered both daycare and before-and-after school care, it did not lose money in the combined projects and provided critical services to working families, especially those with multiple children whose ages spanned from preschool through elementary school.

“It was a heck of a service,” Loomis remarked, noting that the location of the program within the Bailey neighborhood meant attracting, supporting, and retaining families with young families in the downtown area, something the City has long said it wants to do.

Ed Wagner is on the board of the Bailey Community Association and has a son who attends the daycare. He attended the meeting with Lahanas and questions the logic of attributing most or all of the cost of maintaining the Bailey Community Center to the daycare when it has been the City’s choice not to provide more services at Bailey. Wagner says the daycare has been a major benefit to settling his family in Bailey, a kind of counterweight to the challenges of living in a downtown neighborhood with many student rentals.

“There’s a gym, outdoor play space, and it is part of our neighborhood, with many MSU faculty families using it as well,” he told me.

In our email interview, Director McCaffrey indicated, “At this time we have 39 children (10 East Lansing residents and 29 non-residents) enrolled in the program for the month beginning October 1st. We believe we need to look closely at the ongoing financial sustainability of the program and if the City really should be operating full day childcare.”

Asked about whether closing of the daycare would mean closing of the Bailey Community Center, McCaffrey replied, “At this time, we are focusing our attention on the decisions associated with continuation or discontinuation of the childcare program. I think that closing the Bailey Community Center altogether may be a longer term topic for conversation, however, separate from the immediate decisions associated with the childcare program.” 

As a resident of Bailey, Wagner is particularly concerned that a sale of the property could mean that it turns into more student rental housing. Wagner told me, “The Bailey Community Center is at the interface of students and neighbors, and we don’t mind sharing that space. The MSU students here play soccer and Frisbee in the green space. But on [MSU] game days, there are lots of parties and tailgating in the neighborhood. I would not like to see the density of students increase in this neighborhood.”

City Manager George Lahanas did not respond to questions emailed to him about this issue, except to say that he is currently out of town and “will most likely be able to provide answers by the end of the week.”

Photo courtesy of the City of East Lansing.

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