Tyson Foods seeks to acquire a nursery school for the children of its employees | State and Area News


ELK RUN HEIGHTS — Elk Run Preschool is set to close, and there’s a tussle over who will occupy the property next.

Currently, the applicants are the Town of Elk Run Heights and Tyson Foods, which is interested in working with both the town and Waterloo Community Schools. The district operates preschool programs in the building, which is moving to new facilities at Lowell Elementary School.

Tyson spokeswoman Felicia Smith-Nalls offered to repurpose the building at 316 McCoy Road as a preschool for company employees last week during a meeting of the school board’s facilities committee.

The space is currently being used by Cedars Valley Boys and Girls Clubs for the summer. After the end of the summer programming, the building will be empty.

No decision has yet been made by Waterloo Schools, which has owned the building since it was built as an elementary school in the 1950s, according to Elk Run Heights Mayor Lisa Smock.

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“We are so sad to see the building disappear,” Smock said. “It’s sad to see (Waterloo Schools) continuing to sell it.”

Smock said the city doesn’t have the budget to demolish the building because it’s filled with asbestos. His “hopes and dreams” were to move City Hall into space and share half of it with Boys and Girls Clubs.

Due to funding, however, she said the city wanted to see the lot developed as a residential one. She argues that the financial burden of demolishing the building should be placed on the school district.

Smock said the land is about eight acres and would have room for 14 to 16 lots, as well as a road in the middle. She also noted that there have been conversations with the Boys and Girls Club to include a corner of the space for child care.

Tyson Foods’ idea is to house its 3,000 workers in a daycare center near the processing plant. Smith-Nalls said the daycare would be “culturally competent,” with workers speaking languages ​​other than English.

“You’re not going to leave your child with someone you can’t understand,” Smith-Nalls said. “If you need to communicate, it will be when you entrust your baby to someone.”

The proposed daycare would cover Tyson’s two shifts, which start at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. The children would be in daycare until the evening.

Smith-Nalls said the company has done similar operations in Texas and Arkansas. In these cases, the company partnered with existing child care centers to purchase time slots. She said the layout of the Elk Run Heights daycare would depend on how the company purchases the building.

“We just want to make sure we’re part of this discussion before it continues, and we’re not here to block anything,” Smith-Nalls said. “It’s an interesting place and partnership…and to be able to speak with the school board, we are intrinsically connected because our children are your children.”

Smith-Nalls said they need 100 pitches at the moment, but she thinks the building can accommodate 130 children, from infants to fifth grade.

As for the playground at the scene, school board members and Smock expressed concern about the condition of the wooden structures.

“The playground is so outdated and there’s no way to bring it back into compliance,” Smock said. “It’s dangerous…and we have residents complaining about fixing it. It has not been tightened for many years, there are loose nails and screws.


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