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Children's center opens second location in Harrison

The pandemic shuttered day-care centers, after-school programs and camps, creating problems for some parents who put aside wages, pre-tax, to pay for those expenses.
Lars Baron
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Getty Images
The pandemic shuttered day-care centers, after-school programs and camps this year, creating problems for some parents who put aside wages, pre-tax, to pay for those expenses.

While Michigan families face ongoing challenges to find high-quality and affordable childcare, one Harrison learning center is expanding their operations.

Michelle Neff, an early child care educator with Michigan State University Extension, told WCMU many childcare centers still operating in mid-Michigan lack capacity for students right now.

"There are not as many childcare facilities that have openings for a baby or a toddler to actually get the care," Neff said. "So parents then have to struggle- 'how do I get a job, but I don't have any place for my child to go?'"

There is still limited placement available for children up to five years old at Ms. Panda’s Play and Learn Children's Center in Harrison, according to founder Amanda O'Day.

O’Day started her first learning center with 20 students in 2021, and within a year of opening, was licensed to open a second location with capacity for an additional 44 students. Neff said starting a childcare business is not an easy task.

O'Day acknowledges time management and money management were key to opening her second location.

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Photo Provided by Amanda O'Day
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Amanda O'Day, also known as "Ms. Panda", started Ms. Pandas Play and Learn Children's Center in 2021.

O'Day says her passion for teaching, and seeing the need for childcare in her community inspired her to open her first learning center while many others were closing due to the pandemic.

Jill Harrington is a junior at CMU majoring in journalism and minoring in theatre and interpretation. Jill grew up in Novi, Michigan and is interning in Midland this summer working for WCMU and the Midland Daily News.