Shooting Stars Child Development Center in Astoria is working on a resolution with the state that may allow the facility to remain open.

Denise Giliga, the owner and director of Shooting Stars, was notified Friday her license would not be renewed as a result of too many noncompliance findings, giving her a week’s notice to inform families and close.

Shooting Stars closes

Shooting Stars' license is at risk because of too many noncompliance findings.

Now, Giliga said she believes Shooting Stars will be licensed for another year. She has notified the families of children in her care that she will remain open.

“We’re talking to the provider about a potential resolution,” said Melanie Mesaros, the communications director for the state Department of Education’s Early Learning Division, which licenses child care facilities. She declined to publicly share any other details.

The potential resolution follows discussions between state Sen. Betsy Johnson, parents, Giliga and state regulators.

After talking with the Department of Education, Johnson said she believes the reasons the license was in jeopardy were largely related to administrative paperwork and compliance.

“For a policymaker and a servant of my constituents, my job was to try to balance these competing interests,” the senator said.

“I had frantic parents, working parents with no options and a week to try to find a placement. On the other hand, there appears to be evidence that there were regulatory deficiencies. So my goal was to try to work with the department and act as that intermediary between Shooting Star(s) and the department to say to Shooting Star(s) if the department works with you to try to rectify the deficiencies with the goal of staying open, are you able to do that? And the answer I got was ‘yes.’”

Johnson, D-Scappoose, said the resolution is up to the Department of Education and Giliga.

“My goal here is to create a safe place for children, a resource in the community for working parents and to maximize the viability of Shooting Star(s) if they can be brought into regulatory compliance,” she said.

Child care providers in Clatsop County, including Shooting Stars, have reported having a hard time finding, retaining and paying highly-trained staff a living wage and benefits while also keeping child care affordable for parents.

Giliga said the state regulatory standards can hamper child care providers who are already struggling.

Shooting Stars, which has about 50 child care slots, accounts for 11% of all licensed child care slots in Clatsop County. The county is already considered a “child care desert,” a designation given when fewer than 33% of children have access to child care.

The facility also accepts state-subsidized child care for children living at 185% of the federal poverty level or lower — a resource that supports families who struggle to pay the high cost of child care.

Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that Johnson was engaging with the Department of Education to “ensure our local working families are not put in extremis simply because of administrative violations which do not threaten child safety.”

Jones had also received phone calls from parents who said the closure of Shooting Stars would leave them with no other child care options.

“My hope would be that if the state is going to take an administrative action like this that essentially closes a business down that they look at the big picture and not just the trees, but look at the forest and the implications of that action,” Jones said in an interview.

“In this case, when you already have a significant shortage of licensed child care spaces in Clatsop County and in Astoria, to shut one down with that many chairs is pretty significant. It would have a very negative impact on every one of the working parents that use that facility.”

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

(1) comment

Stephen Malkowski

Thank you Senator Johnson. Your tireless engagement towards attention, listening and assisting our community is very much appreciated. Well done.

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