Community Heartbroken Over Daycare Closure: ‘This is a good asset for the community’

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MCCALLSBURG, Iowa -- Budget woes may cause a rural Iowa school district to cut ties with an early childhood learning center, but the community says it won't let it go without a fight.

In 1999, the Colo-Nesco school district had an “If You Build It, They Will Come” approach for an early learning center in McCallsburg.

"Originally, it was set up to draw students to it and those students would stay and become students we would generate dollars and funding for. Unfortunately, over time, that hasn't happened,” said Dr. Jim Verlengia, Colo-Nesco superintendent.

Enrollment at the early learning center has been dwindling, and expenses are far outweighing its revenue.

Colo-Nesco North Learning Center
Colo-Nesco North Learning Center

 

“If we don't have enough kids to have enough revenue to pay for the people taking care of those children, we are in trouble,” Verlengia said.

Jessica Solberg, of Roland, has a two children, 1 and 6, enrolled in the district’s only center of its kind, and she hopes school board members can see more than dollars and cents

“Heartbroken,” Solberg said of the district’s decision. She also said the district’s decision to cut ties with the learning center has placed a lot of stress on her.

“I feel like there are other things they can do besides attacking the daycare. This is a good asset for the community,” she said.

Other community members say it is in danger.

“In McCallsburg, there's not much left. We've got the post office and that's about all we got left,” said Chris Erickson, a McCallsburg resident.

Recent state educational funding issues are not helping the fight.

“The 2.25 percent proposed is not very much. $145 extra per student doesn't help. We are thankful for it, but it doesn't meet the needs that we have,” said Verlengia.

While the center only serves children through fourth grade, many in the community see it having a rippling effect to the high school-level, which is already losing students.

“If we close this, the enrollment in Colo-Nesco is going to go down even further. They'll open enroll to Roland-Story, west Marshall and Nevada,” Erickson said.

Neighbors say their community’s future rests on the shoulders of the Colo-Nesco Board of Education.

“The board truly has wrestled with this, and each one of them brings their own emotions to it and a thought process to it. And it will not be an easy decision for them to make,” said Verlengia.

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