Lake Superior College is going to "weigh all options" to continue providing child care on campus, though the existing provider hopes to stay put.
The college put out an official request for proposals late in May "to explore what options may be available in order to ensure we are partnering with the best provider possible and providing the best, and safest, service possible for our students, employees and the community," Daniel Fanning, the college's director of institutional advancement and public relations, said in an email. "No decisions have been made yet, and all options are on the table."
While no one submitted a written proposal by Thursday's deadline, the administration plans to reach out to those who expressed interest.
Julie Walker plans to be among them.
"I don't want to go anywhere; my parents don't want me to go anywhere," said Walker, who runs the on-campus child care provider Creation Station. "There are so many things I'm willing to do if they sit down and talk with me."
Creation Station has been on campus since 1996, but it has operated without a formal contract since 2008, Walker said. Still, she didn't bid during the public process, which the college decided to undertake as it does with other vendors from time to time "to ensure we are receiving and providing the best services possible," Fanning said.
"There is currently no contractual obligation in place. In addition, there is likely some investment in the facility that is, or soon will be, necessary, so we are doing our due diligence to explore and weigh all options," he said.
Walker said the three-week timeframe and requirements of the proposal process proved to be a "‘tremendous amount of work in too short of a time … and it’s set up for failure."
Amid a tight supply of child care providers in Duluth and around the region — many families report signing up for care well before their infants are even born — Fanning stressed the college wants to keep child care on campus through a vendor, and that could end up being Creation Station.
"We encourage any licensed daycare provider who may be interested in at least having a conversation and exploring possibilities to contact us, because we want to work with a willing partner and make sure we can continue to offer this valuable service on campus," Fanning said.
Creation Station is licensed by the state for up to 24 preschool-age children. Department of Human Services licensors have issued two correction orders to the business this year for minor infractions including a "handle on the refrigerator in the kitchenette was stained and discolored."
Correction orders are routinely issued during unannounced inspections to ensure compliance with Minnesota's expansive child care regulations.
"Those happen to everybody every year," said Walker, who added she didn't think the college started the proposal process in response to the orders. "I've never had a year where I haven't had some kind of small citation."
Parents can look through up licensing information and any corrective actions for child care and other regulated businesses at licensinglookup.dhs.state.mn.us.
Family Child Care Task Force seeking applicants
The Department of Human Services is encouraging family child care providers, parents and child care association representatives to apply to be part of a task force that will take a look at regulations and licensing to address the state's provider shortage. Several seats are specifically reserved for Greater Minnesotans on the panel, which will meet from August to February 2021 to consider:
- Identifying difficulties providers face regarding licensing and inspection;
- Proposing regulatory reforms to improve licensing efficiency;
- Reviewing existing variance authority delegated to counties;
- Recommending business development and technical assistance resources to promote provider recruitment and retention;
- Developing recommendations for alternative child care delivery systems;
- Reviewing Parent Aware program participation and identifying obstacles and suggested improvements;
- Reviewing training for licensed family child care providers; and
- Considering methods to improve access to and understanding of family child care regulations.
To apply, visit commissionsandappointments.sos.state.mn.us.