Closing the gap

Daycare expansion underway

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Community Early Childhood Center, 1321 S. 24th St., is building a 4,900-square-foot expansion to its building to add four new classrooms, storage space and office space. The expansion will allow for the addition of 56 more kids to the childcare center.

One Fort Dodge childcare provider is expanding to add space for 56 additional youngsters soon.

Community Early Childhood Center, 1321 S. 24th St., is undergoing a 4,900-square-foot expansion to its facility on the city’s south side. This project has been years in the making, Director Sheri Morud said.

“It’s been a long process,” she said. “Back in 2016, there was a survey done with area businesses on what was needed in Fort Dodge, and childcare was a huge one.”

So a childcare work group was created in Fort Dodge to work on creating more childcare spaces in the area.

“We were hoping, as a group, to build a brand new center and to expand an existing one,” Morud said. “But when we did the feasibility study, the new building was going to have such a high price tag that we didn’t think we would be able to raise that much money.”

After some discussion, the group decided to focus on expanding an existing childcare center.

Community Early Childhood Center agreed to do the expansion, Morud said.

In 2019, the project received a $600,000 Community Development Block Grant. To fund the project, the Community Early Childhood Center also received a $250,000 interim loan from the city government, $75,200 from a private loan and a $15,000 grant from Linking Families and Communities.

In total, the project is costing around $1.4 million, with Kolacia Construction, of Fort Dodge, doing the work.

Construction of the expansion began in June of this year and is expected to finish sometime in March. The expansion will add four new classrooms, storage space, an office and bathrooms. Once complete, the addition will provide space to accommodate 56 more children and bring the center’s capacity up to 208.

Officials have described Fort Dodge as a childcare desert in which there are three or more children for every available space in a childcare program.

Linking Families and Communities recently found 1,743 available spaces in childcare programs in Webster County, but 4,673 kids in need of such care.

“We’ve had a waiting list in our building for years that is probably 100 families long,” Morud said. “We get calls all the time, and you know, the community wants bigger employers and more people to move to Fort Dodge, but one of the things they definitely need is childcare. So we’re trying to dwindle that gap.”

While the 56 spaces the Community Early Childhood Center expansion will add is just a drop in the bucket of nearly 5,000 kids in need of childcare, Morud is optimistic that this won’t be the last expansion of childcare in Fort Dodge.

“Hopefully down the road we could branch off and do a new building,” she said.

A new childcare facility building would cost about $5 million, Morud said.


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