PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) – A prominent preschool and childcare center in downtown Palmer is shutting down its operations for good on Oct. 31.
Profiles of Excellence has been operating in Palmer for 39 years, but cited staffing shortages as the reason for closing.
In a letter to parents dated Oct. 10, the owner of the facility Barbara Gerard issued the following statement:
“I can firmly assert it was not the lack of business that brought us to this decision, as we have a long wait list of children to get into Profiles; it was the lack of applicants. Regardless of how much or where we advertised, we were not finding applicants to fill the positions,” the letter stated. “Even with a long waiting list of children to get in, without staffing, closing had become the only option. Today, the parents of 72 children will learn they must find a new, safe daycare by November 1st.”
Two of those children were Janine Hearne’s, who said she was shocked when she first read the letter.
“We did not see it coming. There was no communication from the center to tell us, there was no communication from the center to other centers to let them know that potentially there was going to be 70 kids floating around that day that were going to need care,” Hearne said. “There was no transition plan for the staff, no transition plan for the kids — nothing.”
Hearne immediately spent that morning visiting other daycare centers between Palmer and Wasilla, putting her name on every waitlist possible. Fortunately for her, a facility in Wasilla was able to take her two children in a few days later, but she’s worried for the other families that were displaced by the move.
“Thankfully I have a flexible working environment,” Hearne said. “If I didn’t have that I would have been panicking. For anyone that was on a hard nine-to-five, or shift work or anything like that, I dread to think what they went through that morning.”
In a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon, Gerard called the decision a difficult one to make and that her facility was not the only one struggling. Another letter was sent by Little Friends Childcare and Preschool informing parents that it would have to change its hours of operation, as well as reduce the number of students until open caregiver positions can be filled.
With only a handful of childcare options available in Palmer, the closure of Profiles of Excellence creates an even larger need for providers in the small Matanuska-Susitna Borough city. The closure also leaves many parents now having to commute to Wasilla twice a day to drop off and pick up their children from daycare, as many families depend on dual incomes for their households.
“Childcare is not a luxury,” Hearne stated. “We need this, and there’s this displacement of 70-odd kids is going to lead to probably some mothers having to quit their jobs.”
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