Sunny Day plans expansion in Waupaca
By Angie Landsverk
Sunny Day Child Care and Preschool plans to invest nearly $900,000 to add seven classrooms to their facility.
“We’re hoping to break ground in July. The expected completion is the end of November,” said Rhonda Melby, Sunny Day’s director.
Plans call for a 7,195-square-foot addition to be built to the west of the current building, which is located at 1932 Godfrey Drive.
Melby said the addition will blend in well with the existing building as it will incorporate the same colors and materials.
On June 2, the Waupaca Common Council approved Sunny Day’s offer to purchase one acre of property in the city’s Business and Technology Park at a cost of $25,000.
The council also approved a Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement with the nonprofit based on the cost of the city to provide public safety services to Sunny Day.
The payment is based on the new addition and is set at $777 per year for a period of five years.
Sunny Day’s request for an amendment to its special use permit, as well as the site plan review for the project, were scheduled to go before the city’s Plan Commission on Wednesday, June 10.
The child care and preschool opened at its present location in November 2010 after 40 years of occupying the upper half of First United Methodist Church.
“When we built, Pam Gusmer was on the board. Chris (her husband) said, ‘Always make sure you have a plan for expansion,’” Melby said. “I thought we’d be fine.”
Melby said when they looked at Sunny Day’s budget and projections, they did not expect to be full for three years.
“We were full in March 2011, which was fantastic,” she said, noting they were able to pay their bills and staff.
Initially, Sunny Day was licensed for 128 children.
After March of that year, its waiting list began creeping up, Melby said.
She said they knew they could make it work with the flexible scheduling they offer.
Two years later, Melby had a feeling the Waupaca School District might be thinking about starting a 4K program and brought that to the attention of Sunny Day’s board.
They asked Keller, Inc., who designed the original building, to draw up a plan for adding a room for 4K.
“We put it on the back burner at the time, because we didn’t hear anything from the district,” Melby said.
Then, in December 2013, she received a letter from the district, inviting her to a discussion about starting a community-based 4K program.
“It was not a huge surprise,” Melby said. “I raised my hand and asked, ‘When are we thinking about integrating this?’ I learned they wanted to implement it in September of 2014.”
Knowing the population in Sunny Day’s building, Melby sent out questionnaires to their families and learned they favored having a 4K program in the building.
Sunny Day decided to take on both a morning and afternoon session and increased its license by 26 children, meaning it could have up to 154 children.
But it had no place to put the program, she said.
As a result, its gym became the 4K classroom for this past school year.
“We knew we needed to be positive, because it’s a great program and important for them (the children) to be in their natural environment,” Melby said. “So we gave up our gym to accommodate 4K. As we were going on, we were tracking our waiting list for our board meetings. It was climbing and climbing and climbing. We have 119 on the waiting list as of today (June 4) and that includes 22 siblings wanting to come in.”
Knowing there is a need for a 4K classroom and wanting Sunny Day’s gym back, discussions began about adding a 4K classroom.
“We realized when we did the initial building, the 1-year-old room was not large enough. It needs a separate area for sleep,” Melby said. “We’re giving up a lot to accommodate what we have going on in the building. We want to do better.”
In addition to a 4K classroom, Sunny Day plans to add two rooms for 1 year olds, two rooms for infants, one room for 2 year olds and 1 room for 2 1/2 year olds.
“There will be 60 under age 3 additional spots and 24 4K spots,” Melby said.
The addition will also include a walk-in cooler, walk-in pantry, more storage, a new laundry area, a stroller parking area, a conference room and more parking.
The $900,000 cost does not include the land purchase and equipment.
Sunny Day did a fundraising drive for its current building, and Melby said the nonprofit is taking out a loan for the addition.
“We went back and forth as a board to make sure it is the best decision for Sunny Day,” Melby said. “We want to maintain our business model of flexible scheduling, low rates and multiple child discount.”
She said Sunny Day wants to maintain those ideals, as well as its homelike atmosphere.
Its staff currently includes 23 full-time, nine part-time and three seasonal employees.
“With the new addition, we are looking to hire at least nine new employees,” Melby said.
Open from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunny Day is also exploring the idea of offering evening care.