New West Des Moines Child-Care Center Fills Two Voids
Jordan Creek Preparatory School and Private Membership Club meets needs of parents while they're working, but also when they need to carve out time to play. It will open in the location that recently housed Imagination and Education Station.
Attorney and entrepreneur Eric Parrish is still a bit of a kid at heart.
“Kids are born naturally creative,” Parrish said, “and we educate them out of that.”
To make the point that he hasn’t lost his adventuresome spirit, Parrish folded his large frame into a make-believe multi-passenger golf cart. As it turned out, Parrish got a hands-on lesson in physics as the toy toppled when he attempted to sit in the back seat.
With safety precautions taken into consideration, that’s the type of learning-by-doing environment he hopes to foster at a new child-care and after-hours drop-off center he’s opening in West Des Moines’ bustling southwest corner.
The business, Jordan Creek Preparatory School and Private Membership Club, will be housed in the former Imagination and Education Station location at 720 S. 68th St. An open house for parents interested in enrolling their children will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday.
The center will provide full-time day-care service for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years, including before- and after-school care with transportation to and from school provided. The center is certified to provide day care for 303 children.
Parrish said that fills a void created earlier this fall when Imagination and Education Station’s closing left parents in West Des Moines, Waukee and Urbandale scrambling for child care options. But the second part of his business, the membership-based drop-in service for parents who need child care evenings and weekends, fills another: Busy parents’ need for alone time.
Busy parents need evening and weekend options
The business follows a growing trend for drop-in care, which takes into account the busy schedules of parents like the Parrishes and the difficulties they have in scheduling alone time.
“People work odd hours, and need after-work options,” Parrish said, “It’s one thing to have day care when you're at work, but what do you do when you need child care after the work day or on weekends?”
Parrish, the father of three, speaks from experience. He and his wife, Angie, an engineer, have struggled to maintain a "date night" tradition.
“Both of us work,” he said. “When you are dating and first married, it’s a whole different type of dynamic than when you introduce kids. Time becomes more limited, options become more limited on nights or weekends, and you end up dragging your kids to the grocery store or a movie because you can’t call your parents every time.”
Parrish said he and Angie were “brave enough” to try taking their children with them. But it wasn’t a pleasant experience for anyone, he said.
“It’s hard to drag young kids with you to the movies, and there are no real options for parents, so we stopped doing it,” he said. “We cut out the movies and dinners.”
That wasn’t a pleasant alternative, either.
The son of divorced parents and once divorced himself, Parrish said he recognizes the dangers when parents don’t take time to reconnect without their children.
Extra revenue stream to help business succeed
The drop-in center offers another revenue stream that Parrish said will help the day-care center remain profitable in the high-rent area of West Des Moines.
“It’s hard to survive at this location,” he said. “You need that extra revenue stream.”
The center is conveniently located near the city’s retail and entertainment districts, which Parrish thinks will make it an attractive option for parents.
“While parents are doing their thing, the kids are doing things with teachers who are trained to engage them,” Parrish said. “It’s not just warehousing kids, but providing an engaging environment.”
Parrish has hired Tammy McNeil, who owns a child-care center and preschool in Fort Dodge, as director of the center. The daycare there is staffed entirely by professionals who either have obtained or are pursuing degrees in early childhood education, a model Parrish wants to replicate.
The center will initially employ 30 people, and could eventually have a full- and part-time staff of 60 people. Employee retention will be a strong focus, Parrish said.
“Typically, in child care, you have a high rate of turnover; you have high turnover because workers are not paid much; they’re not paid much because they’re not trained very well,” he said. “It’s cyclical, and in trying to attack the turnover problem, you have to pay your workers above market.”