WALLINGFORD — The Wallingford Family YMCA is slated to take over management of the Masonic Child Development Center, a move which took at least one parent by surprise.
Alison Ranciato, a special education elementary school teacher in Cheshire, initially enrolled her now 18-month-old daughter in Masonicare’s daycare in August 2019.
Ranciato has been paying nearly $350 per week to hold the spot, since her child has not attended the daycare since mid-March due to her concerns over the coronavirus.
She said Friday that she felt “blindsided” by the change. According to Ranciato, families were not informed that Masonicare was looking to make changes at the daycare before an emailed statement went out Monday, although she felt there was an indication of changes to come when the daycare director position was left unfilled for several months.
Ed Dooling, Masonicare vice president of human resources, said in the statement to parents that the daycare began more than 35 years ago “and has played an integral role in the lives of many families.”
“However, as we focus on our core areas of business, we have concluded that operation of a childcare facility no longer fits with our long-term strategic plan,” he said.
YMCA staff held a meeting Wednesday at the Y’s westside branch with Executive Director Sean Doherty, senior director of youth development Eric Skinner and director of childcare services Emily Walter, who is slated to manage the daycare.
There were about 30 families in attendance, and Ranciato said she left “feeling much better.”
“The Wallingford YMCA gave a great presentation and question/answer meeting,” she said. “They said that they plan to keep things the same and keep it the center we’ve grown to love, so that was definitely reassuring to hear, that there wasn’t going to be vast changes.”
The Y is slated to take over day-to-day operations beginning Aug. 10. Masonicare will continue to operate the daycare until then.
Current staff who wish to stay on will need to go through the interview and hiring process for YMCA employees, but the Y hopes to retain as many of the 21 existing staff members as possible.
The daycare will still operate at the same location on the Masonicare Health Center campus and is state licensed for 49Daily operations
children, including infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
Doherty, the Y director, said Thursday that talks began with Masonicare last summer, but really moved forward in the spring.
Doherty said the transfer of daily operations allows early childhood education to continue for Masonicare parents and staff and the community, and builds on the Y and Masonicare’s other partnerships.
“We know and trust each other, so that was a key to starting off the conversation,” he said.
The Y worked out a lease agreement with Masonicare, which will retain ownership of the facility. The Y will pay the staff and take care of housekeeping and Masonicare will maintain grounds and take care of any major repairs.
During the Wednesday meeting with daycare parents, he said they spent the majority of the time answering parent questions.
“We do not want any kind of stress level on the parents,” he said. “We’re going to make this as smooth a transition as possible and we’re going to keep them apprised along the way.”
Topics included the staffing structure, how to handle COVID-19 procedures, sibling discounts and tuition rates. Rates won’t change for the rest of the year, he said, nor will the daycare’s hours of operation.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children-accredited curriculum also will stay in place.
“We’re looking to offer swim lessons and other family programs that they’ll see rolling out possibly in the fall, depending on what kind of restrictions we’re still in,” he said.
The Y also operates The Learning Community located at Choate Rosemary Hall and has been at that location since 1994, accommodating up to 80 children on a full-time basis.