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Despite pandemic, daycare facility to open in downtown Duluth

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DULUTH, MN. -- A child care shortage has been a big concern in the Northland for quite some time, but starting Monday, Duluth will be able to provide care aimed at hospital workers and downtown business owners.

It's been a dream of Shelly Vanneste to open a downtown Duluth childcare facility.

"I don't think there's ever now going to be the right time," said Vanneste.

And despite the pandemic, she pushed towards her goal.

“We aren't going to revert back to last year at this time. It was just time to jump and get our feet wet and start seeing how things are going to progress downtown,” said Vanneste.

Located on Michigan Street, right in the heart of downtown Duluth, Proctor's Mesabi Preschool Academy will be taking care of kids starting Monday.

With the need for safe and reliable childcare greater then ever, Vanneste believes that need is only going to grow.

"I see that there is going to be a greater need for childcare because people want their children to be safe, in an environment where they are more safe than they would be maybe in another area," said Vanneste.

Vanneste’s original vision of the space had to be scaled back due to the pandemic, but with the help of Duluth’s 1200 fund, which helps with funding for licensed child care providers, they were able to make her dream, a reality.

“We were originally attended to be four rooms, but we went down to three saving several thousand dollars in furniture, just so we could have extra money to pay for operating costs," said Vanneste.

To ensure all's safety inside the building, Vanneste has come up with a preparedness plan, and to not intermingle teachers in different classrooms.

"If I am working in the preschool room and someone else is in here and I want to go to the infant room, I would have to put my mask on to ensure that we are not crossing or contaminating classrooms and stuff like that," said Vanneste.

The number of kids they will be licensed to take will also be cut back but overall, Vanneste is just excited to get started.

"I just feed off of their energy and their unconditional love and their happiness for what is going on in the world. It really keeps me looking for that light," said Vanneste.

Vanneste added that right now they are only enrolling kids 16 months and up and that their infant room is currently full.

If you'd like more information, click here.

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Ryan Compeau

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