24/7 child care facility might be coming to our area

Local child care experts say there’s a big demand for day cares that are open 24 hours a day, but they’re hard to operate, which is why you haven’t really seen any in our area, until now.

The Madison Elementary School building in Winona was originally going to be turned into a senior living space. Then it was set to be a mixed-use apartment complex. Now it looks as if the former school is going to be a 24/7 child care facility and Winona city officials are excited.

Carlos Espinosa, Winona’s city planner, thinks it’s a great idea.

“It’s something that the entire community would benefit from,” Espinosa said.

He said there’s a big demand for 24/7 child care.

“There are a lot of manufacturers in Winona and they’re working around the clock. So people are working second and third shift, and especially for those types of times during the day, need some additional assistance taking care of kids,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa said using the school as a child care facility also makes sense since that’s what the building was built for and is already zoned for.

“It’s a good option for the school. It’s already set up with a lot of classrooms and kind of a multipurpose area and some outdoor space for kids to run around in,” Espinosa said.

It’s also in the perfect location, he said.

“It’s right in the center of the city so it’s relatively accessible for people bringing their kids there and it’s in the core of Winona, where a lot of our existing businesses are,” Espinosa said.

In La Crosse, 24/7 child care is also in demand.

Angie Wells, the child care and preschool director of the Coulee Children’s Center, said, “We have a lot of families that work in the fast-food industry as well as retail that work outside of the normal business hours. I’ve been getting calls from families that are needing almost evening care.”

Coulee Children’s Center receives multiple calls every month from families hoping the center will watch their kids on nights or weekends.

“Sometimes they’re on mandatory overtime and they need Saturday care so they actually come to me and go, ‘Hey, do any of your child care teachers want to babysit on the weekends?'”

The center would love to accommodate those families but said that’s hard to do, because it would need to find more employees and pay for extra licensing.

“From a business perspective, it would be a really difficult thing to take on because, not only do you need to follow those licensing rules, you also need to have the staff to man it and there’s just not a lot of adults who would want to work that overnight shift,” Wells said.

If the Winona facility can get over those barriers, Espinosa thinks it will be a success and he loves the idea of preserving the former school building.

“We want to see the building preserved and maintained. It’s a historic site. It’s locally and nationally designated. It’s very important to the fabric of the neighborhood,” Espinosa said.

In addition to the day care facility, Winona city officials said the developer can build 16 housing units on the property without changing the zoning.

We contacted the owner and developer of the Madison Elementary School building to see if he’d be interested in building those apartments and we’re still waiting to hear back.

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