Word is getting around that there’s a new daycare center in Mabel. Darcy Thorson is the director of Nisse Treehouse daycare in Spring Grove and Mabel, and that keeps her very busy. But she recently sat down for an interview.
Darcy explained that the center in Spring Grove has been operating for just over two years, but that the Mabel center just opened in mid-September of this year. And while the Spring Grove Center is operating near its capacity, the Mabel center is still gradually building its customer base. She said most of the new referrals come via word of mouth, but that Nisse Treehouse also has a website and Facebook presence that help with family communications, public awareness and marketing.
The Mabel center currently has about 15 children that attend regularly (with a capacity of 42), and about four staff per day, including Assistant Director Brett Gulbranson. Darcy added, “She has her degree in Early Childhood, so she’s also a teacher in the room a couple days a week.” The Mabel center is open Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Darcy pointed out that, “We never close, unless it’s a holiday.”
When asked about the niche that the Mabel center is filling, Darcy shared, “There was no daycare center in Mabel. There were some in-home daycares, and a couple that closed just recently.” She added that the building, located at 114 East Alpine (near the Steam Engine Grounds) is owned by the city of Mabel, but leased to Nisse Treehouse. The building does not yet have outdoor signage up, but that is being considered.
Children are divided into classrooms by age, with the infant room for children six weeks to 16 months of age, the toddler room for 16 through 32 months, and the preschool room for kids older than 32 months but not yet in school. The Mabel center does not serve school-age children at this time.
Regarding the reasons to use a daycare center, Darcy stated, “We feel that it is best when they do start as infants, just so they are used to coming to a daycare and used to their surroundings and routine. And now our expectations are so much higher in the school district, when you get to kindergarten. So our preschool program is run like the school district’s… the same goals. We assess them and we do parent-teacher conferences twice a year.”
She explained that each age group/classroom has a specific required ratio of staff to children, and that the center is subject to state regulations and inspection. She added, “We have licensed teachers, even the aides and assistants have to have so many hours or so much experience or background and training.” She also stated that the meals follow dietary guidelines to assure well-rounded nutrition for the kids.
Darcy also pointed out that each year, the center holds either a Christmas program or a spring program. The Christmas program includes a visit from Saint Nick. And for preschoolers, there is an annual graduation ceremony as the kids prepare to move on to regular schooling. There are also field trips several times per year, in which the staff takes the kids out for fun and educational excursions.
There are several high-tech security features, including at the front entrance. The director’s computer also allows her to view live video of each classroom and area of the building, as an added precaution. Darcy also mentioned that all staff are trained in first aid, CPR and other trainings, and all undergo a background check before being hired.
In the near future, Nisse Treehouse hopes to have an additional accreditation rating. Darcy stated, “We are starting Parent Aware, which is a rated program. So first, we’re building qualities for a year, just to make sure our classrooms are the way they should be. And then we’ll get our star rating.” She explained that centers are rated up to “Four Stars” based on a number of criteria. “We start the process in January, and it usually takes a couple of years to get your star rating.”
In summary, Darcy said, “We’re always looking for staff, even interns from colleges if they need some hours over Christmas. Of course, we prefer some childcare background. We’re always in need of subs, full-time, part-time.” She also said the center is always taking new child enrollments, and any interested families can check out the website, or call, or stop in. The website is nissetreehouse.com, and Darcy can be reached via phone at (507) 450-1203.