Brothers Gavin and Gabriel Lewis sat at a table on Tuesday morning working on a Disney puzzle along with Hans Kain.
Across the room a group of girls finished a make-shift fort out of tables and blankets, complete with a sign that bore the warning message, “no boys allowed” at the entrance.
In another room across the hall, a group of preschoolers sat in front of a television that streamed Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” from Netflix.
It was all part of the day’s activities at Ladybug Crossing Early Learning Center, which is in a second week in its new home at the Osgood Elementary School in North Platte.
“So far things have been going good — maybe just a few small glitches here and there, just little things (with the new site) that we are working out,” said Chantel Tonkinson, who co-owns Ladybug Crossing with her husband, Nick, and is the director of the care center.
The day care center is leasing space in the building that nearly doubles the 2,700 square feet that was available in the center’s previous location at the Apostolic Worship Center site in North Platte.
The Tonkinsons have co-owned Ladybug Crossing for more than seven years and Chantel said the couple had been on the search for a new location for about five years.
“We looked at some (locations) but any place we looked at would have needed to undergo significant renovations to be suitable for a child care program,” Tonkinson said. “Most places don’t have commercial kitchens in place or a fire sprinkler system installed. That was a benefit of moving into a school, it is already set up for kids.”
The increased room with the Osgood location has increased the Ladybug Crossing limits from 59 children a day under state guidelines to a maximum of 100 now. Tonkinson said Ladybugs Crossing could have been licensed for a higher number but decided to cap the capacity at that figure.
The center can accept children as young as 6 weeks old to a maximum age of 13 years old.
The center is far below its maximum capacity numbers right now in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Tonkinson said the center cares for around 35 children a day and she anticipates that number could climb by about 20 by the beginning of June.
The center has five classrooms spread over two floors at the Osgood site. At the previous location, the children gathered in one large room with a small adjoining space marked for the infants. The space at the Osgood Elementary site provides the extra room so that no more than 15 children are in a single room to meet the social distancing guidelines for day care centers issued by the state.
Tonkinson said the additional rooms also benefit just the day-to-day interaction between the children and the 13 staff members at the center.
“Having (the children) in separate classrooms allows us to have a lot more one-on-one interaction,” Tonkinson said. “The noise level is a lot lower and with that the (children’s) attention span is a lot higher. Just the quality of the facility adds to the quality of our program.”
The North Platte Public Schools Board of Education voted to partner with Ladybug Crossing in February.
The revenue from the leasing would go into a cooperating fund and be used to pay for utilities and property taxes for the care center’s area of the Osgood Building, said Stuart Simpson, the district’s executive director of finance, at the time.
Tonkinson said initially the plan was to move into the Osgood space at the start of June but the time table sped up with the pandemic.
“Our relationship with the school district has been great,” Tonkinson said. “They dedicated a lot of time and a lot of energy in making sure this was ready to go for us. We are very appreciative of that.”