‘A childcare desert’: West Irondequoit childcare center in danger of relocating

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IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. – A privately owned childcare center may relocate. The reason? Their leasing space is from the West Irondequoit School District, which has other plans for the center.

The owner of the center tells News10NBC this project could affect nearly a hundred parents, if approved.

The district’s Family Planning Committee recommended a new location for their D.O.E.S building (Department of Environmental Services). The district said the current building has been deteriorating over time, but building a new facility would be costly for the district and taxpayers.

The referendum they’re proposing would involve repurposing Inspire Learning and ChildCare. District officials said this would not cost taxpayer dollars anything.

The building would house a 20-person staff, tools, equipment and vehicles. The school board has already approved it, and come May 16, residents will get a chance to vote.

Inspire has been serving families for over 30 years.

“It’s more than just a daycare to us, it is an extension of our family,” said parent Heidi Murphy, whose two children that attend the center.

Murphy said it’s been their rock throughout the pandemic.

“Myself and all the other parents were pretty devastated to hear the school district wanted to take back this building,” she said.

In a statement, the district said it is committed to working with families, and has been working in ‘good faith’ with owner Tony D’Agostino, to find a different location.        

“There was definitely a slim possibility,” said D’Agostino of the proposal. “I’m not going to say there wasn’t, because we were on a year-to-year lease,” he said. “But there was never any conversation about it, there was never any, ‘Hey, in a couple of years,” he said.

D’Agostino said he learned of this just months ahead of the vote.

“I was only informed this past November, we saw our school and several other properties, would be possibly the environmental works building,” he said. “I wasn’t informed until January that it was likely going to be our location. Because I would’ve most certainly been looking to secure a different place. What we always talked about was a long-term lease, and we’ve always had a great relationship with the district.”

D’Agostino said the pandemic has created a childcare desert of staffing shortages and waitlists for parents.

Now, the fate of Inspire lies in the hands of the community’s vote.

“If the district did take over this facility, that means that’s one out of four less childcare facilities in West Irondequoit, meaning there’s only three,” said Murphy.

Murphy said other options like nannying or driving across town, are too costly right now. Inspire has two other locations in Brockport and Pittsford.

D’Agostino said his lease ends in June, but is renewing for another year ahead of the project’s potential construction to begin on June 2024.

“If we had to move, which we hope we don’t have to, we’d likely have to be on the southside of West Irondequoit,” he said. “We have scoured every inch. It would likely take two years to build a place. And there’s really no places to even build on the Northern side of West Irondequoit.”

Full statement from the district:

“West Irondequoit CSD is committed to partnering with families and the community to support adequate and accessible childcare. We understand there are a limited number of privately-owned companies in our community who offer childcare. We collaborate with each. In the case of Inspire, we have communicated with Inspire’s owner, Mr. D’Agostino, in good faith, trying to help him find a solution to operate his privately owned business in a different location. Ultimately, as a public institution, we must prioritize the needs of our entire district and make decisions that are in the best interests of our students and community. The relocation decision to 330 Pattonwood Dr. was recommended by the district’s Facility Planning Committee because there is no impact to the taxpayers. If approved, this project would begin in July 2024.

Please note this – The Capital Project is a separate vote from the District Budget and includes upgrades to libraries, playgrounds and enhanced safety and security aspects, etc. The DOES building relocation is just one item in the Capital Project, which will be listed as Proposition #1 on the ballot on May 16.”