Little Mariners Child Care Center to Open in Silver Bay

Center aiming to open this fall in the William Kelley School

SILVER BAY, Minn. – A childcare shortage across much of the Northland has become even more urgent during this pandemic, especially in less populated towns.

Now, a childcare center is expected to open in Silver Bay to help with the growing demand.

Little Mariners Child Care Center is on course to open this fall. The center is expected to greatly increase the number of childcare slots available for families with infants, toddlers, and early childhood kids.

Alexis Swartout is planning to enroll her six-month-old daughter, Fern, in the program.

“I recently moved to Silver Bay and, as a new mom, there isn’t a lot of options for child care in the area, so this is like a life saver for me and friends that I have,” explained Swartout.

She says Little Mariners will have everything she and Fern were looking for.

“I work and need someone to watch her while I’m at work and also Fern just loves people and other babies and friends, so to have a place to bring her where she’s getting taught and making new friends is going to be awesome,” said Swartout.

The future center will take up a whole wing of William Kelley School. The classrooms are now being renovated to better serve young kids.

“These were computer labs, and now they will be our early childhood classrooms,” explained Little Mariners director and North Shore native, Kerissa Graden.

She believes the childcare center will fill a big need in the community.

“Every job here is essential,” said Graden. “We all support each other and we’re all interconnected, so not having available childcare in a small community is a huge hindrance to the economy.”

Graden says there are now only two existing childcare centers in the area.

“Between the two of them, there are only three infant positions available and that’s assuming their other slots aren’t full, so here we’ll be able to provide 12 infant slots,” she explained.

The center will also have 16 slots for toddlers, 16 for three-year-olds, and 20 for four-year-olds.

But, in the midst of the pandemic, Graden is unsure how the first year will look at Little Mariners.

“That may effect the number of students we can take, then number of staff we need, and all that goes into that big mystery of what our fall semester is going to look like,” she explained.

Graden is in the process of hiring eight full-time staff members and is putting a lot of thought into how to keep everything as clean and safe as possible when kids enter the building.

“Especially with our infants and toddlers, they put everything in their mouths, so we’re going to be very careful about observing what items children are chewing on and making sure we’re sanitizing throughout the day and rotating our toys regularly,” she said.

Little Mariners is aiming to open at the beginning of the school year in early September.

It has year-round openings for kids ages six weeks to five years. It will also provide after school programs for school-aged kids.

Applications are now being accepted.

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