Little Pioneer Daycare’s last day of operation is unknown

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Families and staff members received notice from Pioneer Church leadership that the daycare program would be closing, however, the final day of operation is still being determined.

Letters were handed out and emailed to Little Pioneer Daycare staff members on Tuesday, April 12 informing them that the Board of Directors (Session Members) had decided to close the Little Pioneer Daycare program and that the letters served as their “two week notice.”

Families received a similar letter the next day on Wednesday, April 13, as they dropped their children off. Like the letters to staff, their letters also stated it was their two week notice, but the Session members hoped to remain open until June 3.

Both letters cited that church leadership had decided to refurbish Wesley Hall, which is the current daycare facility, in order to utilize it “as it was originally intended for receptions, church classes and other events.”

Bruce Chapman, Pastor at Pioneer Church, told the Express that the Session Members had initially planned to time the daycare’s closure to coincide with Winters’ school closings for the Summer around
June 3. However, when they received feedback that parents needed more time than the allotted two weeks to find alternatives, they would consider extending the closing date until July 29.

Gwen Adams, Director at Little Pioneers, said she heard the closing date could possibly extend into August following an emergency meeting on Friday, April 15 between board member Tom Williams, First Five Yolo, Councilmember Jesse Loren and County Supervisor Don Saylor.

“Unfortunately, the Session has decided to not keep myself or Sheri (Lester, administrator) in the loop on any of this,” Adams told the Express.

Chapman and Adams both commented that staff movement could force a closure if the staff ratio required by Community Care Licensing fell below the required adult to child ratio number.

“If ratios aren’t met, the daycare immediately closes. We can’t commit to something that is out of our control,” Chapman said. “Our lawyers informed us that by law, we needed to give two-week notice to both staff and parents, which we did.”

Impact on childcare
Adams said before letters were handed out, Little Pioneers served 25 families, caring for 27 children. They also had expectations of bringing in four infants later this fall and Winter, and three preschool-aged children in August.

However, with a two-week notice and unknown last day of operation, some families have begun to search for other childcare options elsewhere. Little Pioneers was one of the only options in Winters that was licensed to care for infants. Other local day care providers are only licensed to provide services for children ages two and half and older.

Wesley Hall plans
Chapman said the church leadership is looking to host a new AWANA Club, children’s ministry, youth group and other beneficial community events in Wesley Hall, which are consistent with the church’s values and the historic use of the building.

According to Chapman,  the church made numerous attempts to try and host other events in Wesley hall, and it did not work for either the church membership or the daycare. Chapman said the choice to close the daycare center is “first and foremost about restoring Wesley Hall for the good purposes for which it was built” and to allow the community to host events there as they did in the past. 

“Little Pioneers has been a very good cause, and we hope someone starts something like it somewhere else in town. But, regaining access to our fellowship hall, Sunday School rooms, kitchen, stage, and room for youth gatherings is absolutely necessary for the growing church we are today,” Chapman said. “We really had no choice, if we want to continue to be a viable church in this town. And, Winters has already lost too many of its local churches.”

Next steps
Adams and Little Pioneer Administrator Sheri Lester are hoping they will be able to find a new location to reopen the daycare center in Winters. 

We would love to find a location in town big enough to have all four of our classrooms and keep our families together,” Adams said.

The challenge is that even if a location is obtained, Adams and Lester will have to go through the process of licensing again. Including their accreditation with the NAEYC Early Learning Program that they obtained in 2018. Little Pioneers staff had taking strides to base their program and facility with standards set forth by ITERS ( Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale) and ECERS (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale) tools as well as NAEYC Early Learning Program accreditation standards for ensuring high-quality experiences for the children in their early learning programs.

Any property owners who are interested in learning more about the needs to host a new daycare site can contact Adams or Lester. Current Little Pioneer families have also been reaching out to City and Council officials to see what other options may be available.

Adams said the Session members informed them in a letter that the equipment and furniture inside Little Pioneers could be used in a new daycare facility if they’re able to open up somewhere else in Winters.

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