NW Side child care center closing doors
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
The Bright Horizons Children’s Choice child care center located in a building at 3522 N. Central Ave. owned by Presence Health will close on Feb. 27, according to a letter from center officials given to parents this month.
Parent Cathy Araos said that two of her children are enrolled at the center and that she only recently was informed that the center would close. Araos said that rumors began spreading last year that the center would be closing but that staff had assured parents that the center would work with them and provide open communication about what would be happening in the future. She said that on Jan. 6 she and other parents were given a letter informing them that the center would close.
"After careful and deliberate consideration, it has been determined as part of the sale of POLR (Presence Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center) that the management contract for the child care center will not be extended," the letter states. "As a result, the center will close effective Feb. 27, 2015.
"We have been so proud of the environment we created and the high quality child care we have offered for both employees of Presence Health/POLR and the community families in our area," the letter states. "We are grateful for the trust and confidence that you have placed in the center and the wonderful teachers. It is for these reasons that we share your sadness and disappointment and we know that this is upsetting news."
The letter, which was signed by Bright Horizons regional manager Kristen Rolek and center director Tara Yarbrough, said that the organizations are committed to supporting parents through the transition period by providing resources to find alternative arrangements.
"We have enjoyed our relationship with all of our families and students," the letter states. "Our teachers and management team will be offered assistance with exploring opportunities at other Bright Horizons locations."
Araos said that the center has an enrollment of 50 to 60 students and that more than a dozen employees would lose their jobs including teachers.
"Our community needs a center like this for children, and I’m not happy the way this was handled," Araos said. "These teachers, who have been working for 15 to 20 years, will need to reapply, and they will be put into the system as new hires."
Bright Horizons Family Solutions purchased the Dallas-based Children’s Choice Learning Centers in 2013, according to a Bright Horizons press release. Children’s Choice operated 49-employer-sponsored child care centers that offered care and early education and served hospitals, government agencies, corporations and other employer clients, according to the release. Bright Horizons offers preschool, early education and child care programs.
Araos said that early child care was cheaper under Children’s Choice and that those families who were grandfathered in during the transition were able to enjoy the cheaper tuition per week. "It was dramatically increased under the umbrella of Bright Horizons," she said.
Last year Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center, 5645 W. Addison St., was sold by Presence Health to Community First Healthcare of Illinois.
Presence Health, the largest Catholic health system in the state, was created in 2011 through the merger of Resurrection Health Care and Provena Health. Presence had 12 hospitals and 22,000 employees, 4,000 medical professionals and a revenue base of nearly $3 billion. The hospital changed its name to Community First Medical Center on Jan. 1.
Community First Healthcare spokesman Ed Green said at the time of the sale that the benefit corporation was formed in order to help hospitals like Our Lady of the Resurrection continue to serve the community. Green said that benefit corporations operate like a mix of nonprofit and for-profit organizations. He said the corporation’s mission is not to maximize profits but also to make a commitment to benefit to the community.
Green said this week that Presence Health still owns the building that houses the child care center and that he had heard that Bright Horizons was closing the location next to the hospital and also a location in Des Plaines. "We don’t have a horse in this race," he said.
Green said that Bright Horizons had contacted Community First to see if they were interested in a partnership, but he said that they were not. He said that because Presence does not own the hospital any more, they could be just pulling out of the community.
"A lot of this made sense when you have a big system, but when OLR is not Presence any more what else is there to do?" Green said.
Presence announced that it was selling the hospital in March, citing years of operating losses and anticipated financial shortfalls. The announcement of the decision to sell came after months of speculation that the center might close or move away from providing inpatient care because of industry trends.
Green said that Community First intends to make improvements to the hospital by investing $20 million in the next 5 years.