ST. ALBANS CITY — After 25 years serving the community in St. Albans and surrounding towns, the Greater Burlington YMCA’s child care program in the city will be closing at the end of the month after three months at a temporary location in the city.
In an email Tuesday, Doug Bishop, senior director of marketing and community engagement for the Greater Burlington YMCA, shared a letter with the Messenger that announced the March 31 closure. The letter was also sent to families that utilize the center.
“As difficult as it is to share this news, we know it will be harder for you to receive. It has been our privilege and joy to care for your children, and it breaks our hearts to have to come to this decision. Just as we have always done, we will do our best to support you and your children in the coming weeks as you look for alternative care,” the letter states.
On Dec. 4, a pipe burst at the Tabor building on 75 Lower Welden St., which in addition to housing the childcare program, also housed the service center for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
One week later, the child care program moved to a temporary location at the former Community College of Vermont space at 142 South Main St., anticipating a return to the Tabor building once repairs were made. Last week, the YMCA received a formal notification from the federal government it would not be renewing the lease for the Tabor building, according to the letter.
In an interview with the Messenger on Tuesday, Bishop said the YMCA worked with the city to find an alternate location, but had difficulty finding a space that was both affordable and met child care requirements.
While at the Tabor building, the federal government covered the YMCA’s rent and utility bills. Even with that assistance, the program had increasing difficulty breaking even financially, according to the letter.
“We had a strong and supportive partnership with the government that allowed us to operate without worrying about rent, utilities and other support. It was a program that we operated on a very challenging margin,” Bishop said.
Bishop did not have the rent and utility figures for the facility at 142 South Main St. available Tuesday.
St. Albans City Mayor Tim Smith said the city had worked with the YMCA to find a suitable facility, but the program had made its budget constraints clear.
Bishop said the facility had a staff of roughly 16, and served 38 children age 1 to 5 from area families.
“As everyone knows, child care is at a premium. And to lose those spots in the whole scheme of things, we’re taking another step back in child care,” Smith told the Messenger.
Child care in Vermont an issue
Child care continues to be an issue both in Franklin County and statewide.
A study conducted by Let’s Grow Kids in 2020 found that Franklin County has one of the worst child care shortages in the state. Countywide there were 802 child care slots as of the study’s publication. The study estimates that an additional 1,431 slots would be needed to meet the demand for care in the county.
Almond Blossoms Schoolhouse, a child care center in St. Albans, was recently granted $770,000 in state tax credits as part of the Downtown Village Center Tax Credit program as part of a project to rehabilitate the facility to open up a second story of the historic building, which will be used as additional space for child care.
Smith said that while the Almond Blossoms expansion will provide an alternative for some of the families who utilized the YMCA facility, there will be a time gap in which those families will have to find alternative child care.
Bishop said a return to St. Albans or Franklin County would require community partnerships to be feasible, and couldn’t say one way or the other if it would be possible to return.
“It’s always challenging to predict the future,” Bishop said. “It’s a community we were proud of serving.”
In the letter, signed by Program Director Pam Fontaine and Interim CEO Marsha Faryniarz, the YMCA thanks the community, which “brought energy, heart, and a true sense of community to our Y Early Childhood Program in St. Albans. We would be remiss not to extend special recognition to our staff, each of them bringing compassion, dedication, skill, and so much more in support of your children and the countless children cared for over our 25-year history.
“We also want to thank the City of St. Albans and the St. Albans Police who went out of their way to welcome us into the temporary space we have used these past three months.”