Downtown Duluth child care facility to closeConcerns about lead paint will lead to the closing of the University Nursery School-Downtown in the Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building in downtown Duluth.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
A downtown Duluth child care facility will close in June because of its landlord’s concerns about lead paint.
In this case, the landlord is the federal government.
The lease for the University Nursery School-Downtown in the Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building won’t be renewed when it expires on June 15, said Catherine Langel, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration in Chicago.
Kathleen Das, director of the four University Nursery School locations in Duluth, said the facility is the only day care downtown with an outdoor play area for children. It’s used by government employees, downtown office workers and college students for their children, she said, and it’s on a Duluth Transit Authority bus line.
It also has the advantage of the federal building’s high level of security, she said.
In an e-mail responding to an inquiry from the News Tribune, Langel said the property manager discovered loose paint chips during a routine inspection last July. GSA hired an environmental consultant to evaluate the center and then closed it temporarily to encapsulate all wall surfaces that contained lead paint, Langel said.
She called the remediation a temporary solution.
Although the lease was set to expire on Dec. 31, GSA agreed to extend it to June 15 “to allow time for families enrolled in the child care center to locate alternate child care accommodations,” Langel said.
Despite the remediation, the center doesn’t meet GSA standards for health and safety in a child care facility, Langel wrote. “GSA took necessary precautions to make the area safe until the end of the lease extension,” she added.
Susan Saul, supervisor for family day care units in the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Department, said downtown Duluth is short on child care facilities during the school year. Several government employees, including one in her office, use University Nursery School-Downtown for their children.
Access to the bus line is an important factor, Saul said.
“There’s a lot of downtown employees all through downtown that actually utilize the buses,” she said.
The ability to find child care facilities can vary depending on the families, Saul said.
“If families have resources they tend to be fine,” she said. “It’s the families that don’t have resources that I worry about.”
According to licensing information from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, University Nursery School is licensed to provide daytime child care for up to 60 toddlers, preschool and school-age children. It has been licensed since Jan. 1, 1999.