A shuttered elementary school building in Grand Traverse County will be brought back to life this fall. It will re-open as a daycare center.
The hallways are quiet at the former Interlochen Elementary, and the lockers haven’t been opened in six years. TCAPS closed the Interlochen Elementary School back in 2016, and as an early childhood learning center. But the property ultimately went of the Interlochen Center for the Arts last fall. Now plans are well underway to reopen the building.
Michelle Stark says, “My children went to that school growing up. It’s been a benchmark in the community for a long time before it closed.”
Pat Kessel is Interlochen’s Vice President of Finance and Operations. He says, “We’ve been actually working on this building and what we could do with it for two years.”
Interlochen says a daycare was a good fit for the space, and a need for its employees. “Having something like daycare is kind of an added value for them. The convenience of drop off and pickup. That’s why we really push that,” Kessel says. And it’s “definitely a recruiting tool for employees. Especially younger families. Really two top things that hit when we were talking to prospective employees: One was daycare, one was housing.”
It’s a plus for Interlochen employee, and mom, Emily Culler. “When I was pregnant our doctor told us the best time to get on a waiting list was before you knew you were pregnant. So we knew we were in trouble. That was in the winter of 2020,” Culler says. Now her daughter has turned two. “And the news about this daycare opening on campus is a dream come true. And it’s been two years of looking and waiting for the right opportunity and it’s finally here.”
Interlochen is partnering with Pitter Patter Preschool and Childcare, which is based in Kingsley. At the new location they’ll have room for approximately 42 children. Michelle Stark will run the new location. “We’re really excited to partner with them to open more childcare opportunities. I think it will benefit some new families that we haven’t been able to service before.”
Kessel adds, “We’re anticipating about half of the children here are going to be ICA employees here based on the surveys we’ve done internally. And about half from the local community as well.”
The former elementary school will open in the fall for ages 12 months and up. But Interlochen already has some other ideas for using this property as well. “We’re looking at a community center where we can have clubs meet in the evening. We’ve got after school programs, and of course we’ve got our Day Camp for Interlochen here this year for the first time this summer,” Kessel says.
It all contributes to a bustling and growing community, in a place that didn’t have a lot of options for childcare in recent years. Culler is excited that it’s so close to work for her and her colleagues. “Right in our backyard, literally. From a work perspective we’re right here on campus in Interlochen. And we live five minutes away from here off of 31. So it’s right here at home and we could not be more grateful.”
Pitter Patter Preschool will begin taking enrollment applications later this month. “We spend a good amount of time painting, prepping, cleaning, getting the rooms ready. We are in the process now of inspections and getting through all of that, process so we will be able to open,” Stark says. While some staff positions are filled, they’re also working to hire and train new employees.