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Moving to Midway: Former farmstead residence relocated to school grounds to serve as 'Mini Monarchs Child Care'

Alexa Gemmill and her two children, Aubrey and Abe, watch the future Mini Monarchs Child Care move to the grounds of Midway Public School on Thursday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Traffic waits near Midway Public School as Carrington House Moving maneuvers the building onto school grounds. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

INKSTER, N.D.—A building that will house a child care center was moved Thursday from rural Argyle, Minn., to the grounds of Midway Public School near Inkster, N.D.

Mini Monarchs Child Care, expected to open Oct. 22, should accommodate 20 children and possibly more, said Jill Peterka, Forest River, N.D., who serves on the child care center's board of directors.

The building, a double-wide modular home built in 1997, was relocated from a farmstead where Wendy and Donavan Maurstad lived, Peterka said. After the couple moved into a larger home on the farmstead, they put it up for sale online, she said.

The building was transported 55 miles by Carrington House Movers of Carrington, N.D.

The number of children who can to enroll in Mini Monarchs depends on the license to be issued by the county, she said.

Hours of operation are planned for 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"Our focus will be on children ages 0 to 4 but we know, in the summer, we'll have a few children over 4," Peterka said. "Our license will allow us to serve children up to age 8."

Parents have signed up to enroll 20 children at the facility, Peterka said, and residents in the area "have been amazing in helping us raise almost $20,000" for the project.

"The community has put so much faith in us, to be in a building that doesn't exist yet," she said Wednesday.

"We've heard that startup costs could be as high as $40,000 for things like furniture, appliances, playground equipment and supplies," she said.

The Forest River Community Church has pledged to match donations up to $25,000 made by Dec. 31, Peterka said.

"Right now, we're running a 'Bushels for Babies' (campaign) where farmers can donate commodities to our account and (the elevator) can sell it for us," she said.

Planning for the child care center has been in the works for more than a year. In spring 2017, an in-home daycare at Gilby, N.D., was closed by the owner, Peterka said. "That put quite a few families in limbo."

Area moms had to rely on friends and relatives to provide child care, at least temporarily, she said.

"Some of us were driving one direction to drop kids at daycare in Minto, N.D., and then driving the opposite direction to work in Grand Forks."

Last spring, "we held a public meeting at the Midway school, and we said, 'Holy cow, what are we going to do?' "

They found the building on Craigslist; formed a board and a limited liability corporation; sought non-profit status from the IRS; and worked with government specialists who advised them on starting a child-care facility.

"Unfortunately, in a small town, if you want to get something done," Peterka said, "you do it yourself."

District support

The Midway School Board "has been super-instrumental in helping us," Peterka said.

"The School District purchased the building, and we're renting from them."

Alexa Gemmill, of Fordville, N.D., has been hired as supervisor at the center, where she'll be joined by two or three support staff members, Peterka said.

"And we're open to volunteers, like grandmas in the area who want to come in and rock a baby."

Peterka and her fellow board members have partnered with Midway Public School to make it possible for the Mini Monarchs to use the school gym in the winter and for the school's music teacher and librarian "to pop in" to the child care facility on occasion, she said.

She's also hoping that, down the line, students in Midway's Family and Consumer Science classes will be able to earn academic credit for working with and caring for children at the facility.

"There are lots of ways we can partner with Midway School," she said.

Gemmill, who has a 21-month-old daughter and one-month-old son, said she's been a stay-at-home mom and is excited by her new job, "to have them under the same roof as me, and excited to be part of these kiddoes' lives."

Mini Monarchs will be "a great opportunity for parents" who have had to travel further for child care, she said.

"It's nice to have an option closer to home. It's exciting for everybody."