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Noah's Ark sails away

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER-Managing editor
All the children and employees, two by two, will say good-bye to Noah's Ark Children's Center next week. The doctors Raulerson have decided to close its doors after seven years.
The doctors built the building at a time when all the church daycares for newborns had closed, Raulerson said. She knew the licensed daycare would be a service to the community. But because the cost and regulations and inability to keep the quality where they wanted it, they made the painful decision to close.
Raulerson, whose children and grandchildren have attended daycare, strongly believes in the importance of prevention, as a pediatrician and parent. Had someone been willing to help out with the costs, they would have continued to keep the daycare open. However, there's a price for everything.
Instead, Raulerson said they lost nearly $1.3 million on the daycare over the last seven years. Despite last year's record enrollment of children, it seemed that the more children they enrolled, the more costly it became.
When agencies including the Department of Human Resources, school board and other state agencies pulled out, the doctors remained diligent by trying to provide Blue Cross Blue Shield benefits for employees, who were also paid better than minimum wage.
The daycare center participated in the Grandma Program, which was funded by DHR. It provided scholarships to the children, Raulerson said. It also allowed well-trained early education trainers to work with the children and trained workers how to interact and teach the children.
When DHR pulled out, scholarships were cut, employees began to receive inadequate training and families were unable to pay the bills.
During a time of transition, the daycare lost several employees and training was becoming too expensive without financial support. She said the local school system had said they would step in and they would use master level teachers to train the staff.
They even asked DHR to come to the center to evaluate it and figure out how to maintain the employees and not lose so much money. Raulerson said DHR officials advised her not to pay the employees so much money and to get rid of the benefits.
State regulations also played a big part in the closing. Raulerson said that the daycare is the only licensed daycare in the community that was able to take care of children six weeks of age and older. The cost became prohibitive she said.
Then came the straw that broke the camel's back. An employee who had been working at the center for nearly a week, loudly spoke on numerous occasions regarding the poor inability to train adequate teachers and the deteriorating quality of the daycare. She wrote her letter of resignation and it was then, that the doctors decided enough was enough.
Without the safe-haven the daycare provides, Raulerson said she feels sad that some of the children won't be in places where they will feel safe and be productive. Instead, they will be stuck in front of the television all day, and some will be stuck in violent places.
Fifteen employees, with two weeks extra pay, and 70 children will no longer attend the daycare at the end of next week. It will be up to somebody in the community to help out, because the Raulersons have paid their dues.