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Napa approves preschool and day care center for city’s west side
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Napa approves preschool and day care center for city’s west side

From the June 9 recap: Napa Valley news you may have missed today series
Napa church to host Little Rays of Sunshine day care

Ciudad de Paz Centro Cristiano, a church on Laurel Street in Napa's Westwood neighborhood, is the prospective home base of the Little Rays of Sunshine day care center and preschool. The facility has won a permit from the city Planning Commission to care for as many as 53 children from the ages of 6 weeks to 5 years.

Napa’s chronically short supply of day care centers is closer to receiving a dollop of relief.

Three women organizing Little Rays of Sunshine, a program for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years, last week won a city permit to operate from Ciudad de Paz Centro Cristiano, a church in the city’s Westwood neighborhood.

On gaining its state license, the program will provide a preschool, day care center, and nursery for up to 53 children in a community where child care openings — particularly for infants and toddlers — had been perpetually scarce even before the coronavirus pandemic upended the industry starting last year.

All five members of the city’s Planning Commission on Thursday approved a permit for Little Rays of Sunshine, which will operate on church property at 2641 Laurel St., following hearty recommendations from several women who pointed to the special scarcity of infant care for working mothers.

“I appreciate your courage regarding starting a small business in Napa, and starting a business that is so community-focused,” Commissioner Gordon Huether told applicants Fatima Arreola, Angelica Maciel, and Verenice Maciel. “Go with God, but go.”

Little Rays of Sunshine will serve children in three age groups that will be assigned to separate parts of the church building, where four classrooms will be used, as well as separate sections of an artificial turf playground to be created at the rear of the nearly three-quarter-acre site. Staff members will tend to infants up to a year old, toddlers from the ages of 1 to 2 ½, and children ages 2 ½ to 5.

The program will stand out by offering a Montessori-based model of self-directed learning and dual English-Spanish immersion from early childhood, but even more by targeting those families who have the most difficult time finding places for their children, according to Veronica Maciel.

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“The city of Napa does not have many options when it comes to infant care, many of which have a long waitlist or have enrollment that’s full for the year,” she told planners during the online meeting.

The center will be overseen by a director and 14 staff members, according to an application with the city. Programs will run between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, with parents allowed to enroll children for half-days or arrange earlier or later drop-off times based on their work schedules, according to organizers.

The prospect of adding child care places for more than 50 children will be a boon for both children’s development and their parents, predicted Deborah Elliott, a mother of two and chair of Community Resources for Children, which connects families with Napa County child care providers. “As a full-time working mother, having consistent child care allows me to stay in the workforce and allows my children to learn and thrive around other kids their age,” she told commissioners.

Napa’s approval of Little Rays of Sunshine follows a year when COVID-19’s aftermath rocked a child-care sector that the CRC warned already was meeting only a quarter of statewide demand and was largely unaffordable for working-class parents. The county’s roster of child-care centers had struggled to bounce back from closures during the country’s last economic shock, the Great Recession that peaked in 2008.

In the first five months after California imposed its first stay-home order in March 2020 to combat the pandemic’s spread, the shutdown or retrenching of four Napa County facilities resulted in the loss of about 50 child care berths, CRC executive director Erika Lubensky told the Napa Valley Register in August.

Local day care operators also described cutting capacity to meet social-distancing requirements during the pandemic, reducing revenue while expenses stayed the same or even grew — all while some of their clientele pulled out children after losing jobs in the hospitality businesses.

A new study has found that more than 7 in 10 parents are worried that lockdowns have hurt their child's social development. The study says that 65% of parents believe their child has struggled with the lack of interaction. The study also says parents believe their children have become less confident and more reclusive as a result. One-fifth of parents worry that their child talks less than they used to, while 3 in 10 parents say their child isn’t as happy. Deena Billings, an early years expert at Busy Bees, says there is no doubt the pandemic has impacted children. We’ve seen children in our nurseries having to re-learn how to use their social skills, independence and interactions with peers when we initially reopened our doors last year, Deena Billings. The study was carried out by Busy Bees and interviewed 1,000 mothers and fathers of children eight and under.

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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