One of Clatsop County’s few day care centers, Lil’ Sprouts Academy in Astoria, is relocating.
The move is scheduled to occur in early September and will open up space for Astoria School District operations for the start of the school year at the Capt. Robert Gray School where Lil Sprouts now operates.
The city-run day care will move to the Astoria Recreation Center off W. Marine Drive. The recreation center, previously the site of community fitness classes and after-school programs, is more suited to the day care program, city officials said.
The city expects an interruption to child care beginning on Sept. 7 in order to move items from Gray School to the recreation center. Care will resume on Sept. 11.
Enrollment is expected to stay at around 42 children for now, said Jonah Dart-McLean, the city’s parks director. Class sizes are restricted due to coronavirus precautions and the city is still providing emergency child care slots to essential workers.
But when the recreation center is built out with additional classrooms, Dart-McLean said it is possible Lil’ Sprouts could eventually host up to 75 or 80 children, an increase over precoronavirus capacity. Any increase would depend on public health restrictions and the number of available staff, however.
In the short term, Dart-McLean hopes to be able to start bringing back families who were bumped onto waiting lists due to virus-related class-size restrictions.
There were several reasons behind the move, according to Dart-McLean.
“One, it’s nice to be able to have a building we’re in complete control of,” he said.
The city had been renting space at Gray School from the school district. Lil’ Sprouts shared space with district administrative offices and an alternative high school.
Also, Dart-McLean added, as the school district began to solidify plans for how to conduct school business and oversee a school year that will begin entirely online, “It became clear that one thing they could use was to have more space, to operate with options.”
Fitness equipment previously housed at the recreation center was moved to the Astoria Aquatic Center, which has amenities like showers to offer. Dart-McLean hopes to bring back the after-school programs, though where and how is not clear yet.
Columbia Memorial Hospital donated $10,000 to offset some of the costs of building out the recreation center to accommodate day care operations.
The parks department was able to fund the majority of the work through its own budget, drawing on in-house labor and construction supplies and materials, Dart-McLean said. The money from the hospital will help pay for more technical work like plumbing and electrical, he said.