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New Osage Community Day Care building opens

OSAGE — The new Osage Community Day Care building is a big hit with the ones who matter the most.

The children are enjoying the new facility, which opened in February, according to Director Shelly Parks.

“You can tell they really like it by the noises coming from the rooms,” she said.

Parks said the new building has more space than the old one, which allows more children to be served. Although slots are filling up quickly, there’s room for a few more children, Parks said.

The new building “is much more brighter and welcoming for families and children,” she said. “People are excited when they walk in because it’s so bright and so nice.”

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It all began three years ago when Brenda Dryer, who was then the executive director of the Mitchell County Economic Development Commission, approached Parks about the possibility of constructing a new building for the day care center.

At first they tried for a Community Development Block Grant, but the application wasn’t approved.

“We had to take a step back and decide what we were going to do,” Parks said.

Fortunately, there was a lot of public interest in the project.

“If it wasn’t for that, we would not have been able to get the funding,” Parks said.

The Osage School District agreed to lease land just north of Lincoln Elementary for the new building. The city of Osage and Mitchell County contributed funds toward the project. Osage Municipal Utilities helped the day care secure a USDA loan for the new building. Mitchell County Regional Health Center, which is located across the street from the former day care location, agreed to purchase that building. Businesses and individuals also donated to the project.

“The pieces kind of fell together,” Parks said.

Construction of the new center began in June 2018.

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Being so close to the elementary school is a huge advantage, Parks noted. The school district and the day care center worked together to create a shared playground designed for children ranging from age 2 to first-graders.

“We didn’t have a playground before, so this is a big deal,” Parks said.

The first time they went outside the new building for recess, the children “were so excited to see the new (playground) equipment and the space to play,” she said.

The school-age children who are in day care have use of the gym, lunchroom and playground facilities at Lincoln Elementary after school, which gives them more room for activities.

When school is in session, the older children who are in day care are dropped off at the new day care building, and the staff walk them over to Lincoln.

At the old day care building, the staff had to use a van to transport the school-age children to Lincoln and back.

The new building also has upgraded technology. Tablets are now available for activities such as songs and educational games. There’s also safety features such as secure doors and surveillance cameras.

Parks said the kitchen is three times bigger than in the old building, and the hallways and rooms are bigger. The new facility also has more bathrooms and new furnishings.

“We were very fortunate to have a great team that planned this building,” Parks said.

Expansion has meant hiring more staff. When Parks became director nearly 12 years ago, there were 11 staff members. Now there are 23.

The day care is licensed by the Iowa Department of Human Services, which means it has certain requirements that must be met, including an age-graded ratio of staff to children. For example, one staff member is required for every four infants.

The new building is important because “day care is so essential to communities,” Parks said, noting some towns don’t have adequate child care.

“It’s been a long road, and we are very thankful for everyone who has been involved in the process,” she said.

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