Construction on Elma child care facility expected to begin this summer

Learning to Grow child care in Elma was among the nine early learning facilities statewide to receive grant money to increase capacity, the state Department of Commerce announced Monday.

“It was beyond wonderful news,” said Executive Director Stephanie Smith when it was made official that Learning to Grow would receive $751,000 approved in the Legislature’s 2020 supplemental capital budget.

The money is seen as helping fight a problem of lacking child care, especially in rural areas. Business interests have pushed hard for expanded day care so that working families can be accommodated.

Learning to Grow narrowly missed out in funding announced in February, when the YMCA of Grays Harbor received $800,000 to expand its day care capacity by 62 spots. The Legislature’s supplemental capital budget allowed for the funding for Learning to Grow and others that also missed out on the first round of funding. The current funding, approved ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, survived cuts made by Gov. Jay Inslee to other projects funded through the supplemental budget.

“This grant money added to approximately another $300,000-$500,000 of private loans” to build a 6,500 square foot building; six classrooms serving infants, toddlers, preschool and school-age children; and a commercial playground, said Smith.

“At full capacity, the building will serve 156 children,” said Smith, and will employ at least 20 full-time positions and five part-time positions.

The new facility will replace Learning to Grow’s current temporary location at St. Luke’s Church. The Little Oaks location will remain open and continue to serve an additional 60 children with preschool and school-age care, said Smith.

“Building plans are out for bid and permitting is in process,” said Smith. “Construction is expected to begin within three months with completion by the fall of 2020.”

The new facility will be built on several acres of Abundant Life Church property on the viaduct north of Highway 12, behind the Elma Pet Clinic.

The Department of Commerce, in partnership with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, announced the additional $4.089 million in grants to nine early learning providers to add new capacity or purchase facilities at risk of being lost May 11.

“These grants will help ensure all of our children are ready to enter kindergarten,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. ”Child care is a challenge for working parents even in good times, but will become even more crucial as we begin to reopen our state and safely restart our economy.”

“Providers currently face many challenges amid the coronavirus outbreak and are in need of additional supports to meet the changing and increased demand for child care as the state reopens,” said Department of Children, Youth and Families Secretary Ross Hunter. “My hope is these grants will offer some relief.”