Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 23, 2018

Foursquare Daycare prepares to close

Day care will stay open as long as DHS allows
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | May 09, 2018

Fairfield Foursquare Daycare has been asked to bring its building up to fire code, but the changes are so expensive that the owners plan to close the day care.

The day care is a part of Fairfield Foursquare Church. Church pastor Matthew Crowl said the decision to close is especially bitter since the daycare was just about to expand.

“We really wanted to change into a learning center,” Crowl said. “Winter is rough for the kids, and I saw an opportunity there. We have them all day, so what can we teach them to put them ahead in school?”

Crowl hoped to copy the Montessori Method of teaching he saw at Maharishi School where students choose an activity within a range of options and are encouraged to explore topics on their own.

“We were headed down that road, but we had a major snag with the fire code system,” he said.

 

Fire safety inspection

Kyle Gorsh, special agent in charge of overseeing the fire prevention bureau in the state fire marshal’s office, said his office inspected Foursquare Daycare on Jan. 29. The inspection was part of the state’s routine schedule where businesses are inspected once every three years.

Gorsh said the inspection showed the day care needed to install “panic” hardware on its front exit doors, which means installing a push bar so they’re easy to open in case of a fire, and installing a fire alarm system.

“We’re more than willing to work with them on a timeframe. We’re not requiring that they install this equipment tomorrow,” Gorsh said.

Once the state fire marshal makes its findings known, it gives a business 15-30 days to respond with a “plan of correction,” detailing how it will fix the problems. The state has not received such a plan from Foursquare Daycare.

Crowl said the day care can’t comply with the fire marshal’s request because the renovations are too expensive. He estimated the cost would be upward of $10,000 or even $20,000.

“Our glass doors in the building are pretty old, and they’re the cheaper kind. They’re not big enough to take a panic bar,” he said. “We’d probably have to replace six glass doors, and that would be prohibitively expensive.”

Crowl said he looked into prices for a commercial fire alarm system and found they cost $6-7,000.

“My concern is that this opens the church property to a lot more changes down the road because of the precedent it sets,” he said. “We’re not a commercial building and were not built to commercial standards. The church has a limited budget, and we can’t absorb big hits like this.”

 

Future

At this point, Crowl plans to keep the day care open as long as the state lets him. He hopes it can stay open for at least a few more months. He is leaving it up to the Department of Human Services to decide the day care’s last day.

Matt Highland, public information officer for the Iowa Department of Human Services, said child care centers must obtain a fire marshal’s certificate to receive and maintain licensing. If they cannot obtain one, DHS is required to revoke the child care center’s license.

Highland noted that the penalty for operating a center without a license is a serious misdemeanor, and that each day the center remains in operation after conviction or notice from the department by certified mail is considered a separate offense.

 

Commitment to day care

Fairfield Economic Development Association Joshua Laraby said his organization and others are committed to increasing both the quantity and affordability of child care in Jefferson County. He noted how a child care steering committee was formed last fall to study the issue, and surveyed parents and business owners about their child care needs. The results of the survey will come back May 18.

Laraby said it’s well known that the county suffers from a shortage of child care providers, and he hopes the committee will find a way to remedy that.

“Available and quality childcare is a core asset of our local economy. Our businesses and our workforce are reliant upon these services being available every day,” he said. “We’re in communication with all of the agencies involved - Fairfield FourSquare Day Care, the Iowa Department of Human Services and Early Childhood Iowa - to work towards the best possible outcome as soon as possible.”

Tammy Wetjen-Kesterson, director for Iowa, Keokuk and Jefferson County’s Early Childhood Iowa, added, “The Iowa/Jefferson/Keokuk ECI Board supports efforts to build the capacity of child care in the Fairfield area. We want child care environments to be safe and healthy for children, and to promote early learning.”

 

History

Crowl said this is the 25th year the church has hosted day care. The daycare at the church was called Agapeland for years until it changed its name in 2017 to Foursquare Daycare.

About 40 kids use the day care on a daily basis, and about 80 are enrolled. Crowl said it has had as many as 120 enrolled. It has 10 paid staffers and about five volunteers.

The church is made of two distinct parts.

One part is new and steel. The daycare is mostly in the older part.

Crowl has been the pastor at the church since Jan. 1, 2016.

 

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