Shooting Stars Child Development Center will close in Uniontown and downsize services at the end of the month.
The center, which accounts for 11% of all licensed child care slots in Clatsop County, will operate under a different type of license and be able to care for only 15 children a day, down from 50.
Another day care in Gearhart is also closing its doors. The provider at Gearhart Kids Academy confirmed the closure but could not provide details. Gearhart Kids Academy, which opened nearly five years ago, serves from 10 to 14 children at a time.
Denise Giliga, the director of Shooting Stars, said trouble finding qualified staff led to the decision to close at the current location and downsize. Training to fill the jobs would have taken up to a year.
“I can’t have rooms not running for a year and still pay my very high commercial rent costs,” she said.
The change in license and the reduction in the number of children served comes with fewer restrictions on operations.
The day care nearly closed last year after the state notified Giliga that her license would not be renewed due to too many noncompliance findings and other complaints. One of the state’s findings was that there was not enough staff for the number of children.
State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, worked with the state and Shooting Stars on a resolution and the center remained open under a temporary license.
The change in Shooting Stars’ operations later this month is separate from any requirements by the state under that agreement. Giliga said she reached the decision to downsize and change licenses in consultation with the state.
While Giliga knows the news is frustrating to some of the families Shooting Stars serves and some will need to look elsewhere for child care, she feels positive about downsizing. She has the support of the state and Northwest Regional Child Care Resource and Referral, she said.
Giliga hopes to open several other smaller versions of Shooting Stars in the future. But she wants to operate this first iteration for at least a month before making any decisions about expanding.
News of the changes at Shooting Stars and the closure of the Gearhart day care prompted a discussion at an Astoria City Council work session Thursday about how city resources might be used to fill the gap.
Clatsop County is considered a child care desert, meaning there are not enough slots available for young children who need care.
Astoria’s Parks and Recreation Department is looking at ways it can expand offerings and use underutilized space, said Jonah Dart-McLean, the department’s acting director.
In light of changes at Shooting Stars, the department raised its cap on after-school programs at the Astoria Recreation Center, from 45 children to 60.
While there continues to be consistent calls and waitlists at Lil’ Sprouts Academy, the city-run child care center, Dart-McLean has not seen a major influx of children into the city’s after-school programs because of changes at Shooting Stars.
“We were surprised that we didn’t get as much initial outreach as we would expect,” he said.
But he theorizes that many parents had begun searching for other child care options last year when Shooting Stars first faced a threat of closure.