SARANAC LAKE - The families of 45 local children will be impacted by the pending closure of Tendercare Tot Center's Lake Colby facility.
Parents were informed Friday that the preschool and day-care center, located in the former Lake Colby Elementary School building on Trudeau Road, will close its doors on March 1. A copy of a letter sent to parents, obtained by the Enterprise, says the decision to close was reached after a careful review of Tendercare's finances.
Benjamin Kline, chairman of Tendercare's Board of Directors, wrote in the letter that his board is "very aware that this will have a significant personal impact on the children and families" who use the day-care provider's services.
"All children and families who had been enrolled at Tendercare for whom we are not able to provide an immediate opening due to the restructuring, will be put on a priority waiting list in case openings occur in the future," Kline wrote. "The decisions that are being made are focused on continued efforts to provide a quality Daycare program for the community."
Another Tendercare facility on Quinn Way in Ray Brook will remain open, and some families have been able to place their children there. Kline told the Enterprise that state workers were given top priority. The Ray Brook center was founded in the 1990s following negotiations between unions and the governor's office.
"We are a benefit to state employees, and we opened up to others as a community thing," Kline said.
Kline said closing the Lake Colby center was necessary in order to maintain Tendercare's overall operation.
"We needed to stop losing money, and that's where we had to do it," he said.
The building's heating costs were one factor that led to increased expenses, Kline said. Additionally, debt payments were a concern, and the center didn't want to put itself in a situation where it couldn't make payroll.
"It's not healthy to run an operation that's not covering itself," Kline said. "The operations in Ray Brook that we'll consolidate back to will pay for itself and provide us a way to pay off the debt that was incurred. We hope to do that and go from there. We realize this is a hardship on the families, and it's not been an easy decision by any stretch."
Some staff members were cut, Kline said.
Families who couldn't place their children at the Ray Brook facility were given a list of other day-care options in Essex and Franklin counties and the Saranac Lake area.
Kristin Meissner said she and her husband, Luke, are scrambling to find another option for their 4-year-old son Ebin, who up until now has been enrolled in Tendercare's universal pre-kindergarten program. She said her family was saddened by the news that Tendercare is closing.
"Ebin was doing so well; now he's just going to have to go to another day care and kind of be uprooted from where he was comfortable," Kristin said. "He knew all the teachers, and they worked really well with him. Now we have to scramble to find something that's as good. Now he's going to have to adjust again."
The Meissners, who live in Lake Clear, had been paying out-of-pocket for Ebin to go to UPK. Some families are able to send their children for free because the Saranac Lake Central School District receives state funding to cover a certain number of children. A lottery system determines which ones can go for free.
Kristin said openings at other day-care providers are filling up fast, but her family will have to find something for Ebin since she and her husband both work full-time.
Amelia and Sean Frazier of Saranac Lake had also been paying for their son Miles, 4, to attend UPK at Tendercare. Amelia said she learned of the pending closure through a phone call Friday morning.
"I got the call when I was heading into work, and they asked me if I stopped at day care, and I said, 'No,' and they said, 'Well maybe you might want to go there, because they're passing out sealed envelope letters saying the day care is closing,'" she said.
Dan Bower, Saranac Lake Central School District's assistant superintendent for business, said the district just learned about the Lake Colby center's upcoming closure Friday morning. He said five or six children attend the UPK program with funding through the school district, and he believes they will be able to be placed elsewhere.
"We will be making accommodations to find places for those as best we can as soon as we possibly can," Bower said.
The school district still owns the building. Bower said the district will look for another potential tenant.