For families lucky enough to make it off the waiting list and entrust their children to Rocio Morales, that security has now evaporated.
Her day care, which serves 24 families and employs five caregivers, was given four weeks’ notice to vacate the premises, Morales said. She, along with some of her clients, believes the lot that houses Happy Kidz Day Care Center was sold to a local developer.
“I really want to try to keep the day care open,” Morales, 45, said. “It’s just so hard to find the right space in town.”
The sale of the 0.69-acre parcel at 40 Redmond St. does not appear to be final; it is still listed for $5,250,000 by Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty.
“This oversized parcel on 2 lots will afford the developer a multitude of opportunities,” the listing states. “With the density bonus calculation available this property can support approximately 26,000 square feet of improvements or be subdivided.”
Listing agent James Musclow declined to comment. County records show the property belonging to a former Jackson resident now based in Kentucky: Christie Ross, who has owned the parcel since 2012. It appears she previously owned the property as Christie Knori.
“As East Jackson continues to develop do not miss this opportunity to be near the Hospital, Elk Refuge and every Town of Jackson amenity,” the listing states.
There is another two-story garage space on the property, though Morales wasn’t sure if anyone uses it.
Families are desperately trying to find Morales another location where she can continue to care for their children, but so far they have mostly encountered dead ends.
Shanna Varley, owner of Rocky Mountain Kids, might have a solution.
“I want to see if she wants to technically move into my location,” Varley said. “Because I’m actually trying to get another facility built. My five-year plan was to have two locations in Jackson and then a third one in Alpine, because we’re in such desperate need in Alpine.
“If I can bring her in — along with her staff and her clientele list — and then move my infants who I have on my list coming in February in with hers, then, you know, that might be a really good fit,” Varley said.
Currently, Varley is a one-woman show, limited by state regulations to caring for just four infants.
“If I was fully staffed then I could have 10 other children,” Varley said, explaining that so far nobody has responded to her job offers.
That’s a problem for other providers, too, like the Children’s Learning Center, which has some 200 families on its waitlist and “can’t hire anybody from outside the valley” because of the high cost of living, said its director, Patti Boyd.
“Finding care for the youngest members of our community is no easy feat,” the town of Jackson wrote on its new web page, TownOfJackson.com/618/Childcare, which launched Thursday as a list of local providers.
Many families with Happy Kidz are still hoping they won’t have to look for other options. They’re crossing their fingers that someone like Varley will come through with a new space that works and that allows Morales and her staff to continue serving the community.