Big Sky’s only certified childcare provider enters private, 2 1/2-year deal,
Moving in early October

By Taylor Anderson, Weekly staff writer

In a whirlwind move that emerged and solidified in less than a month, Big Sky’s Morningstar Learning Center has decided to purchase a new building for its childcare services.

“This is a big positive thing that’s happening,” said Shana Seelye, Morningstar’s interim president. “Right now we are holding our tuition, and actually the purchase of this will lower our overhead.”

The move allows the group to increase enrollment by three, to 43, based on a requirement that allots 35 feet for each student. Morningstar’s Administrative Director Whitney McKenzie said the potential enrollment increase would allow them to care for more infants and toddlers.

The group plans to purchase the building at 659 Spruce Cone Drive from a local family in a deal signed Sept. 1 with Paul and Janet Cronin, and hopes to move in by the first week of October.

There is still much to do in terms of construction at the new building, and the group has asked for volunteers to step forward in the final rush to meeting the early October deadline.

So far, several construction, electrical, and plumbing companies have offered their services, but there is still much to be done, Seelye says.

Benefits include larger space, lower monthly expenses, and an outdoor play area that didn’t exist at the old location. Seelye said the group would line the kids up at the old facility and walk to a nearby playground.

The move comes after a bumpy few years for Morningstar, which included being denied any funding from the Resort Tax Board this year in June.

The learning center, which started in April 2006 after Big Sky’s former childcare center went out of business, received $300,000 from resort tax in 2008 and $175,000 in 2009 for constructing a building. But hopes of construction were dashed when the economy crashed.

“We were a victim of the economy just like everybody else unfortunately,” said Seelye, who took over as interim president after Laura Sacchi stepped down in August.

The group has entered into the private, 2 1/2-year financial deal toward funding the move, McKenzie said. Paying the monthly mortgage on the building rather than renting at the previous spot “significantly decreases overhead,” she added, but kept the specifics private to protect the owners of the last location.

After completely paying off the mortgage, the group, Big Sky’s only state certified childcare and preschool facility, will likely be in a more stable spot than in the past.

Talk of further expansion at the new site, is too far down the road, McKenzie said. “We just want to pay off what we are currently getting into.”

“We’d love to [eventually] make it bigger and expand to accommodate more families” but that is too far on the horizon at this point.