LEXINGTON — The community of Lexington is on track to getting a childcare center. Learning Adventures Child Care Center is working to open a child care center in the First United Methodist Church with space for around 45 children.
The owner and director of Learning Adventures, Casey Madsen, said she became interested in opening a childcare center in Lexington after reading a Lexington Clipper-Herald article detailing the lack of childcare options in the community.
Madsen currently owns and operates the Learning Adventures Child Care Center in Gothenburg, which is based in the First United Methodist Church in the All-America town. Madsen has directed childcare centers in the past in Fremont and Omaha and holds a degree in elementary education from Nebraska Wesleyan University.
When a community meeting was held to discuss the urgent need for childcare in Lexington, Madsen was in attendance, so was Pastor Anne Gahn of the FUMC.
Gahn said the church’s conversation about the childcare need started nearly a year ago. She said she heard from several different people, of different age groups and backgrounds in the congregation about the need and how the church could use space it wasn’t utilizing to help the child care need.
Gahn became especially concerned when she heard people were leaving the Lexington community due to the lack of childcare. Gahn mentioned the need at a May church council meeting and asked the members to look into what could be done at the church.
Soon after, the first of several community meetings were held to figure out how to tackle the great need in Lexington. Following this meeting Gahn arranged for the Fire Marshal to walk through and see what updates would needed to be made to the church space in order to facilitate a childcare center.
Department of Health and Human Services Child Care Inspection Specialist, Shonna Werth and Marti Beard the associate vice present of early childhood programs Nebraska Children and Families Foundation also toured the church space.
Gahn also met Madsen at this first meeting. Madsen was contacting different churches throughout Lexington to inquire about hosting a childcare center in their space.
A walkthrough of the church with Madsen and her assistant director, Haleigh Rangel, was quickly scheduled, she said she was shocked by the amount of space and rooms which were not being used.
“It looked like it was made for children and what better place to educate children than in a church,” Madsen said.
Gahn said both women were impressed by the amount of space, the size of the kitchen, the suite of classrooms in the basement and the multi-purpose room. She said they saw a lot of potential.
After the Lexington church tour, a group from the Lexington congregation went to tour the Gothenburg Learning Adventures location and meet with Madsen. Soon, Madsen and Rangel were invited to the July Lexington FUMC church council meeting to present about the childcare center and the possibility of opening a center in the church.
Madsen said if a center opened in Lexington, Rangel would be the director of the location. Rangel has been the assistant director at Learning Adventures for some time and ran the center on her own when Madsen was on maternity leave. She also has a past in working in early child care with five years of experience at three other centers.
Madsen said her childcare center is education focused and her main goal is to raise good people with friendship skills, people skills and a quality education.
If the arrangement was approved, FUMC would provide the appropriate space for the center, while Learning Adventures would handle the licensing, hiring of staff, handling insurance, etc. The arrangement is quite similar to the partnership between Learning Adventures and the Gothenburg FUMC.
The FUMC church council approved of opening a center, contacted Madsen and began the process of renovating the appropriate areas to host the center.
Gahn said the church is gathering bids for making the basement rooms ready, installing a smoke detection system and other cosmetic changes to flooring and paint.
Even though the FUMC choir will be affected and have to relocate space, Gahn said they were on board and excited about doing something significant. The United Methodist Women are also working with Madsen to arrange how to share the kitchen space.
Madsen said her goal is to open the center on March 30, 2020. Time needs to be allowed for the proper licensing to be obtained, the City of Lexington to approve the zoning, renovations to the church to be made and staff to be hired. Winter season is also prime flu season, something Madsen wants to avoid when opening a brand new center.
The number of staff will depend upon the demand for space, but Madsen expects to open with six to ten training staff. She said she assumes when the center opens, most of the spaces will be called for. Already people have been contacting Madsen about getting on the list for the center.
The church space will likely be licensed for around 85 students, but Madsen plans for an enrollment between 45 and 50, in order to maintain the quality of education. Gahn said Madsen seems “very strategic,” in her planning. The excess number is high because the church still has a second floor space the center could expand to if needed.
The center will be opened from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and will serve children from six weeks old to 12 years old. After school and before school programs will be offered.
Learning Adventures does participate in a food program and Title 20, which is state aid for children. Madsen said most in-home daycares do not accept Title 20 children, but the center will.
The next step for the prospective center is approval by the city council of Lexington, the permit will be heard before the council during the Aug. 27 meeting, said Gahn.
Madsen advises people to keep an eye out for advertisement about the center which will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.
For those with questions about the center contact Casey Madsen at Learning Adventures Child Care Center at 308-537-5194.