Sacred Heart Church is closing its day care facility and the search is underway to find a new day care center.

The future of a day care center in Pratt is very much in question. The Sacred Heart Church day care is shutting down on May 19 and that means 33 children will have to find somewhere else for their day care needs.

The First United Methodist Church expressed interest in a day care in their building but the state fire marshall determined the churches fire suppression system (sprinkler system) did not meet the state codes to operate a licensed day care in the building. It's estimated it would take $100,000 to bring the suppression system up to code for a day care at FSBC, said Darci VanDerVyver, Pratt County director of Public Health.

The Genesis Center was also being considered but the board of the Presbyterian Church, who owns the Genesis Center, decided they didn't want a day care in the Genesis center.

A walkthrough was held April 19 at the First Baptist Church at 121 South Ninnescah as a possible location. Deborah Rodda, the Department of Kansas Health and Environment child care licensing surveyor and City Fire Chief David Kramer were part of the walk through. Rodda also does in-home day care inspections.

VanDerVyver said from now on they were going to ask Kramer, who is a licensed electrification, to inspect potential places for a day care before inviting the state fire marshal to do an inspection. It could save valuable time for everyone involved.

The Reach Church has also expressed interest in a day care and have scheduled a 5K run and 1 mile run/walk at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 29 starting at the church to raise funds for a possible day care.

The town really needs a day care center and, so far, it seems only the churches are interested in helping out, VanDerVyver said.

There is a great need for a day care center in Pratt. According to a recent state census, there are 466 children under the age of 5 in Pratt County.

Rodda said there were enough licensed spots available for 246 children in day care in the entire county.

Sacred Heart is the only licensed day care center in Pratt so there is a great need for a day care in the city.

There are numerous families that need day care. For many families, the adult or adults in the home have to work to cover the daily bills. Some jobs don't accommodate a parent that has to leave to go pickup or deliver their child at day care from work or to pickup a child from school and take them to day care.

A bussing system for switching school children to a day care center is also needed. This would help eliminate the need for parents to leave work to transfer a child from school to a day care.

If a new family moves to Pratt and they have trouble finding a day care, it could mean that a parent has to stay home to take care of their child and not have the additional income.

There are other day care facilities in Pratt. While the Sacred Heart facility is the only day care center in Pratt, there also four group day cares and 16 licensed day care homes in Pratt. Unfortunately, several of those facilities don't comply with all the regulations and need to make changes or close, Rodda said.

According to the KDHE Kansas Laws and Regulations for licensing Day Care Homes and Group Day Care Homes for Children, the requirements for an individual to apply for a license are: Be at least 18 years of age; not be involved in child care or a combination of child care and other employment for more than 18 hours in a 24-hour period; not engaged in either business or social activities that interfere with the care of supervision of children.

The number of children a single provider can care for varies depending on the age of the children but the range is from 8 to 12 children. The same is true for day cares with two providers.