Door County YMCA CEO Tom Beerntsen said a one-two punch of unforeseen circumstances has led the YMCA to the decision to consolidate its two child care sites into one.
The Y currently operates the Barker Center on Egg Harbor Road and the Lansing Center on the west edge of the industrial park in Sturgeon Bay. Beginning on Jan. 11, 2016, all children will be served at the Barker Center.
The consolidation has been made necessary because of the drop in enrollment created by the expansion of the all-day 4-K program in area schools and by the financial impact which the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) will have on the operations for the child care program beginning in 2016.
“The YMCA business model for childcare programming is built on a blend of a low ratio of newborns to teachers (4 to 1) to a much higher ratio of four year olds to teacher (18 to 1). With the critical reduction in the number of four year olds, and the new costs of the ACA mandates, the business model for two buildings is not sustainable,” Beerntsen explained. “When they set up the Affordable Care Act, they set the threshold at 30 hours. That’s the definition of full-time employment. That’s not the world I live in.”
Beerntsen said with the low 30-hour threshold, the YMCA would have faced more than $100,000 in new expenses annually in the child care area alone.
The purchase of the Barker Center facility in 2012 was driven by the need for additional quality child care in Door County. Soon after opening in 2013 the center was filled and in the second year of operation the Barker Center was awarded the coveted and nationally recognized Five Star Young Star rating.
In early 2014 the Lansing Center was purchased and became the main location for the YMCA’s well attended 11-week day camp program and the main kitchen for the YMCA summer foods program, which served more than 20,000 lunches to children weekdays this past summer.
The Lansing Center opened for child care service in the fall of 2014 and also serves as an offsite location for wellness classes. Ministry Door County Medical Center also operates a satellite office at the Lansing Center.
YMCA Board of Directors Chairperson Steve Abrahamson indicated that accessible and affordable child care is critical to the ability of a community to attract young families and develop a vibrant economy.
“Moms and dads have been able to go to work knowing that their children are safe and in good care when they are at our YMCA child care centers. We remain committed to working to design a business model which allows us to continue these important services under one roof,” Abrahamson commented. “It is unfortunate that in this case well intended decisions at the federal level with health care and the related loss of our four-year-old enrollment in day care has resulted in a challenge to the viability of care for the youngest of our children.”
The Lansing Center will continue to serve as a site for wellness classes, summer day camp, summer foods and other special Y programs. The operation of the hospital satellite office is unchanged under the current lease arrangement. It is anticipated that the use and disposition of the two YMCA-owned centers will be determined in the third quarter of 2016.
“At the end of the day, it’s about saving child care for Door County,” Beerntsen said. “There’s the Northern Door Child Care Center in Sister Bay, but that doesn’t help people in Sturgeon Bay. If we exit this, there is almost no licensed care available. This is really a community challenge. We’re going to work real hard to make this work so we can continue to offer child care.”