Community Thrives on Child Care and School District Partnership

Universal preschool and creating access to high quality child care have been recently highlighted in the President’s State of the Union address, and are the topics of conversation across the country. In particular, child care providers are wondering about how school-based programs will impact their child care businesses. First Children’s Finance, through the >MN Project (, has documented an example of how one small town addressed this issue through an innovative school district-child care partnership.

In Montevideo, MN, a lack of infant child care options was making it difficult to attract and retain young workers and families. But the cost of starting and sustaining a high quality infant program made it difficult to address the issue.

Kinder Kare, a nonprofit child care center serving the community of Montevideo since 1969, was looking for a new facility. At the same time, the Montevideo public school district was facing consolidation. Superintendent Dr. Luther Heller began to envision a one-stop-shop for all of the child care and early education needs in the community. Today, what was once an empty school building is now the Sanford Education Center: a unique early learning facility that includes kindergarten, Early Childhood Family/Special Education, Head Start, school age programs, preschool, and Kinder Kare, all under one roof. While the programs remain separate, collaboration is key. Programs work together rather than in competition or in silos, giving families in the community many options for their children. “We believed that the more we shared and collaborated, the better services we could provide for all children,” said Superintendent Heller.

Sanford Education Center’s unique model has leveraged and attracted the resources of the school district, Kinder Kare, local government, and economic development. A portion of Kinder Kare’s rent to the school district is subsidized by the county. And, to address the lack of infant care options in the community, the Montevideo Economic Development Authority and Community Development Corporation provided Kinder Kare with start-up funding of $10,000 for an infant room. “In a child care center, the other ages subsidize the high cost of running an infant room,” said Trisha Hering, Director of Kinder Kare, which is a 4 star rated Parent Aware program. “Our partnerships with the school district, the county, and economic development allow our program to be both high quality and sustainable.” The new space serves 12 infants and opened in September of 2014.

This innovative collaboration turned a crisis into a win-win situation for all parties and an example of how communities can create flexible, sustainable child care options for families through school district-child care partnerships.

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