Pod model day care opens New Ulm building

New concept endorsed during ribbon cutting ceremony

Sisters Liz Delacruz (left) and Rachel Ludewig (right) are both newly licensed day care providers. The two decided to start day care businesses in the pod model Westridge Place. The sisters operate indepedent day cares out of the lower levels of Westridge Place. Delacruz and Ava play on the chalkboard. Ludewig holds Tegan Meinzer and Emy Schmeising

NEW ULM — A special ribbon cutting event was held at 1314 Westridge Road Friday in honor of New Ulm’s pod model day care, Westridge Place

The pod model day care is a new concept in Minnesota that allows up to four in-home day care providers to operate out of the same building. Instead of a single day care center operating out of the building, four independent day care businesses can run from the same location.

Child care shortages have been an ongoing problem in Minnesota for several years. It has been cited as a top concern of New Ulm officials for over half a decade.

The creation of Westridge Place was made possible through funding from New Ulm’s Economic Development Authority (EDA). Two years ago, the EDA board agreed to purchase the property at 1314 Westridge Road with the intention of creating a pod-model day care facility.

EDA Coordinator Heather Bregel said the purchase and remodel of the building cost under $1 million. The project was paid for through EDA funds and some public donations.

The new pod model day care at 1314 Westridge Road is officially open as of December. Three licensed day care providers have moved into Westridge Place with a fourth coming on in a few weeks.

“We all know that finding reliable and trustworthy child care is a top priority for parents,” Bregel said during the ribbon cutting an open house. “With this new facility, parents in our community can now have peace of mind knowing that their children are in a loving and supportive environment.”

Westridge Place currently has three independent day cares operating in the building with a fourth joining in February.

Westridge Place has a main floor and a lower floor. Each floor has two pods. The main level pods are 500 square feet. Based on state regulations, each day care pod could eventually take up to 12 children, for a maximum of 48 child care spots.

The two pods in the lower level of Westridge Place are operated by sisters Liz Delacruz and Rachel Ludewig, who both became licensed daycare providers earlier this year.

Delacruz said she was inspired to open a day care after the birth of her twins. She had trouble finding a day care with an opening for twins and decided to start her own in-home operations.

Mayor Kathleen Backer, Sen. Gary Dahms, Rep. Paul Torkelson prepare to cut ribbon announcing the opening of Westridge Place’s pod mod day care. All four day care providers working at Westridge were present at the ceremony.Holding the ribbon L to R: Tamara Miller-Como, Alissa Kretsch, EDA Coordinator Heather Bregel, Sen. Gary Dahms, Rep. Paul Torkelson, New Ulm Mayor Kathleen Backer, Rachel Ludewig (holding Tegan Meinzer and Emy Schmeising) and Liz Delacruz (holding Ava Delacruz).

“I heard about this place and asked my sister if she wanted to join,” Delacruz said.

“At first we thought about starting a day care together,” Ludewig said “but then we had a better ratio of kids if we both became licensed child care providers.”

Delacruz and Ludewig have been working out Westridge Place for a few weeks and appreciate the space.

“It is very convenient not to work out of the house,” Ludewig said.

Tamara Miller-Como will start working out of Westridge Place in February. She previously ran a home day care for nine years with a focus on early childhood education. Miller-Como said after learning about Westridge Place she decided to return to day care.

“I am very excited about this,” Miller-Como said. She said her space on the main floor was great and she even had a good view.

Of the four providers at Westridge, Alissa Kretsch has the most years as a day care provider. She has run an in-home day care for over 11 years but had considered quitting before Westridge Place was created.

“I needed to get the business out of my house,” Kretsch said. “I love my job but I couldn’t do it at home anymore.”

As her family grew, the home could not support a day care anymore. Westridge Place offered a way to continue the business out of home.

After Kretsch learned she could move her in-home operation to Westridge Place, she agreed to continue working as a provider. All 12 of her day care children came with her to the Westridge space.

“It is going really well,” she said. Some of the children were a little nervous about coming to a new space, but they’ve come to like it.

New Ulm Mayor Kathleen Backer said the completion of Westridge Place was an amazing accomplishment. She thanked city staff for making it possible and congratulated the city on achieving a top priority.

State House Rep. Paul Torkelson and Stae Sen. Gary Dahms also attended the ribbon cutting. The two legislators were impressed with the Westridge facility, saying it was a great addition to the community. Torkelson and Dahms acknowledge there was continued work needed on the child care crisis. Both thought New Ulm’s Pod Model could help other communities.

“Let’s get this model on display,” Torkelson said.

“I think this could work well in other communities,” Dahms said. “We just got to make sure the regulatory agencies are supporting them.”

Westridge Place could serve as a model beyond Minnesota. Mayor Backer said she spoke with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and the Senator indicated child care was a priority on the federal level as well and expressed interest in touring Westridge Place.

EDA Coordinator Bregel said Westridge Place was not the end of the EDA’s work on the child care crisis. There was more work to be done. The next step is to assess the city’s current needs.

Bregel said First Children’s Finance has begun a study for the New Ulm area. The New Ulm area school district has also submitted a survey to parents to help determine current day care needs. The city should have new statistics within a few months.


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