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Daycare facilities weigh options
By now Islanders well know that Youth Theatre Northwest (YTN) will relocate when the Mercer Island school district seizes back the property it currently calls home, a megablock around its high school. But also in jeopardy are two Island daycare facilities. Little Acorn and Country Village Day School, could be evicted from North Mercer campus as soon as August of this year.
The topic was one of several discussion points at a city planning session in late January, during which the directors of both programs, Tiana Traylor of Little Acorn and Linda Tepper of Country Village Day School, spoke to council and staff. Like YTN, there are few alternate sites for either facility.
“We hope that the City of Mercer Island understands the impact on young families on Mercer Island,” reads a letter signed by Tepper and Traylor.
The writing was on the wall for both daycares. Children’s Institute for Learning Differences (CHILD), Pixie Hill Preschool, Little Acorn and Country Village were given notice in 2009 that the district may have other plans for its land at North Mercer campus. Not long after the district negotiated a postponement of that lease termination. But while the facilities have been looking for other homes, they argue that Island real estate is cost prohibitive, especially for a nonprofit like Country Village.
There are four major full-time daycare facilities on the Island not based out of a home, including Jewish Community Center (JCC) and Early World Montessori. Though the latter two are not at risk, community members argue that the loss of two facilities will still have a significant impact on Island families. Combined, they serve 250 kids—Country Village Day School hosts 198 children ages six weeks to six years, and Little Acorn serves 44 children ages two and a half to 5-years-old.
The eviction, say both directors in the letter, will eliminate half of the Island’s infant care spots. Upwards of two-thirds of the kids are from Mercer Island families and both daycares have been on the Island for many years. Country Village Day School opened in 1971. Little Acorn began operations in 1986.
The search for a new home is further complicated by several factors. To be a worthwhile investment a ten year lease is preferred over the usual leasing period of five years. Little Acorn and Country Village Day School are also working with a narrow window of time in which to find a home and outfit it with utilities to accommodate its class sizes. Daycare facilities, unlike the school district operate year-round so maintenance or repair work that could otherwise be done during summer break, won’t be as easily accomplished here. Some speculate that the issue hasn’t garnered as much attention because the city and school district are eager to pass the school bond and levy.
The city has already heeded the requests of Island daycare facilities several times before. In 2009, for instance, it amended zoning restrictions on the establishment of preschools in residential neighborhoods. It also opened churches, other public facilities and cul-de-sacs to the option of housing them without conditional-use permits.
Neither director would comment before Reporter deadline. If the school bond passes, both daycare programs would likely be given notice by the end of the month.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this print and online story identified Little Acorn and Country Village Day School as the only full-time care facilities that aren't religion-based. Upon further review, we learned that Early World Montessori is not religion-based.