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Morningstar will close Fridays due to staffing crisis

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Children at Morningstar Learning Center play outside in the snow. PHOTO BY LESLIE AMMONS

Community members struggle to balance child care and work

By Gabrielle Gasser Associate Editor

BIG SKY – Due to staffing issues, Morningstar Learning Center will be closing its doors on Fridays starting the week of Feb. 7. Now, parents are struggling to compensate for the lost day of child care.

Morningstar announced that it would close on Fridays after a Jan. 25 Zoom meeting where Morningstar board members, staff and parents discussed several possible solutions including a lottery system or parents voluntarily pulling their kids out of daycare. Meeting participants agreed that closing the daycare’s doors one day a week was the best solution, and a subsequent survey yielded majority favor for closing Fridays.   

Morningstar Executive Director Mariel Butan said the plan is to operate Monday through Thursday until the end of spring quarter on May 31 or until they can hire enough teachers to reopen for five days.

“No one is like ‘Oh good, we found a good solution now we can relax,’” Butan said. “Now we, if anything, have one extra administrative day in the week, to be just consistently at the grind and trying to find [more staff.]”

Morningstar has been trying to hire new teachers for a long time, and, according to Butan, the biggest obstacle is usually housing.  

Leading up to the schedule change, Morningstar was asking parents to voluntarily unenroll their kids if they didn’t absolutely need child care that day in an attempt to keep its doors open five days a week. 

“This is obviously a big deal, and it has ripple effects throughout the community,” Butan said. 

One local mother of three and a nurse at the Big Sky Medical Center clinic Brittany Marvin said this change means she will eventually have to stop working on Fridays.

“Now the clinic is going to have one less nurse available to work,” Marvin said, “putting a lot more pressure on the other employees, and then decreasing patient care and availability.”

For now, Morningstar is stuck in a holding pattern until the facility can hire more staff, according to Butan.

It can be easy to get discouraged, Butan says, suggesting that the Big Sky community needs to keep working to solve these problems.

“We have to keep working towards [a solution] today so that maybe we have a solution in a year or two years or whatever it is,” she said, “but it’s going to take that continued effort, which is a really heavy burden for everybody.” 

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