EmBe School Age Care program in Mitchell coming to an end Wednesday

Nov. 20—MITCHELL — The EmBe School Age Care program is coming to a close in Mitchell after years providing access to childcare services.

The organization announced the end of the program in a press release. The official closure date is Wednesday, Nov. 22.

"This decision has not been made lightly, and we want to assure you that it was a difficult one. We have had the privilege of getting to know each one of your children, and it is with a heavy heart that we must bid farewell to our time here," said Kerri Tietgen, CEO for EmBe, and Brandon Hanson, executive director of childhood and school age care for the organization, said in a statement.

The program has provided child care and educational enrichment programs for children ages 6 to 11. The group is a nonprofit that specializes in child development programs that facilitate growth and development through tailed classrooms and educational toys, according to its website.

In addition to Mitchell, the organization also has a presence in Sioux Falls.

Embe, which expanded its services to the Mitchell community in 2017, has scaled back its presence in the community since March,

when the School Age Care program was put on hold due to the dissolution of an agreement between the organization and the Mitchell School District.

The agreement allowed EmBe to use district facilities at no charge.

Joe Childs, who had assumed the role of superintendent for the Mitchell School District from Joe Graves shortly before that development, said at the time that he believed discussions to discontinue that partnership had been ongoing as far back as the spring of 2022, and cited "inattention" to certain factors in the decision, including a disregard for security measures like doors being propped open and alleged damage to facilities over the years.

It was a move that stemmed from an accumulation of concerns from several officials inside the district, Childs said. Graves, who had earlier left the district to become the secretary of education for South Dakota, declined to comment at the time, saying it would be inappropriate for a state official to comment on a local issue, referring questions to current Mitchell School District leadership.

EmBe then announced in May that

its Childcare Center in Mitchell, located at 1109 N. Main Street, would end its child care services as of the close of business on June 30.

That program supported children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. The facility was licensed to serve 44 students and provided care for 31 children and employed nine teachers at the time.

At the time, representatives with EmBe said that the School Age Care program would continue in partnership with the Mitchell School District during the 2023-24 school year. They also said that the organization's Girls on the Run program would continue to serve students in the Mitchell community.

EmBe leadership said at the time that "steep challenges including the rising cost of care and labor shortages contributed to the deliberation by EmBe's board of directors and executive team."

Tietgen and Hanson said the organization ended the program with a sense of gratitude for the families that placed their children in the group's care over the years.

"As our program concludes, we want to take this moment to express our sincere gratitude for your trust in us and the support you've provided throughout our journey together," the pair said in the most recent statement from the nonprofit. "We have watched your children grow, learn and thrive, and it has been an incredible experience for us to be part of their lives."

More information can be found by calling EmBe at 605-336-3660 or by visiting its website at www.embe.org.