BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – The Fort Madison YMCA will be taking over operations of two day care centers in Donnellson.
The Raisin’ Em Up Early Learning Center in Donnellson, and Raisin’ Em On Up, also in Donnellson will begin operations under the Fort Madison YMCA on March 30.
Fort Madison YMCA director Ryan Wilson said the YMCA only began looking at purchasing the day care providers on Jan. 16 of this year.
“We had a board meeting on the 16th and I had actually received a call that they were for sale earlier that day,” Wilson said Monday.
“We didn’t want to rush into anything. So we put a committee together to hash it out to make sure it makes sense financially and fits the mission. Then I reached out to the owner and began discussions.”
Wilson said he took several YMCA board members out to tour the facilities and has spoken with staff on site.
The facilities came under fire from the Iowa Department of Human Services through most of 2019, and on June 13 had 15 complaints filed against the facilities and owner Sarah Tweedy after unannounced visits were conducted in April and June. Tweedy appealed the complaints and the situation was working it’s way through the DHS administrative process at the time of the sale.
At one point DHS officials started a 10-day revocation timeline against Tweedy, but the appeal delayed the license revocation.
In August, Laura McDowell, a site supervisor for the daycares, was charged with child endangerment after an incident at the facility resulted in the death of a child in December of 2018. McDowell has pleaded not guilty in that case and pretrial conference has been set for Feb. 14, with a pre-trial motions deadline set for March 10.
Wilson said he’s spoken with the Department of Human Services and the facilities will have a clean slate under the YMCA’s ownership, and the state is not requiring any changes to take place after the sale.
Wilson said additional one-on-ones are scheduled with current staff, but he said plans are to keep the current staffing, hours, and rates at least for the first 90 days.
“If we need to make any changes to we may look at that at the beginning of the next school year,” he said.
Once ownership changes hands the facilities will be tentatively be called the Fort Madison YMCA Early Learning Center, and the Fort Madison YMCA Learning Center for the older children.
Wilson said initial reactions to the YMCA taking over has been good.
“We’ve heard nothing but great things from the community about us taking over,” he said.
He said there is room for additional children at the facilities. With the unknown future of the centers as DHS officials considered the appeal, families have taken their children to other places.
“They were operating at higher volumes before DHS filed the complaints and people didn’t know what the future would be so some families went to other places for child care,” Wilson said.