Little Hubs Learning Center officially opens, brings daycare back to Rochelle
‘We're here for the community and all these parents can go back to work and school’
ROCHELLE — Little Hubs Learning Center at 1010 N. 15th St. opened and saw its first day of operation on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
Rochelle had been without a daycare since 2020 when Kishwaukee Family YMCA Child Care Center closed at the same location. The new daycare is owned by Ron and Joni Spartz and their daughter, Kristin Spartz Barlow, runs it as director.
The family and staff members worked for the past four months to open the facility and had to get it back in working order. Barlow said the work involved anywhere from 5-15 hours a day cleaning, fixing things, visits with DCFS and the state fire marshal and parent tours and signups.
“It was nonstop work for about four months,” Barlow said. “We'd be here sometimes until midnight. The day before we opened we were here until 11 p.m. just making sure everything was ready to go. Knowing that we were finally done with that phase and stress was great. And it's been great knowing we're here for the community and all these parents can go back to work and school. That's the best part. They have a safe place for their children to go and we're here to provide it.”
After the last daycare center closed, the City of Rochelle took on preliminary work in hopes of helping to bring a daycare back to town. It put out a survey to residents that came back with overwhelming results in favor of a daycare with 72 percent of respondents saying they’re in need of a daycare and 71 percent saying their children would be likely to attend a daycare if it opened in town.
The Spartz family saw talk online about the need for daycare in Rochelle and Barlow brought up the idea of purchasing the building and opening one. She’s worked on opening four other daycares under previous employers. Little Hubs Learning Center is a for-profit organization.
The facility has 24 staff members and Barlow said she was pleasantly surprised at the amount of interest in work at Little Hubs. When open interviews were done in September, 50 applicants were seen. A lot of current staff members worked at the location under previous owners, such as Assistant Director Brittany Furman, who worked at the location for about 23 years.
“It was nice to come back and see all the kids and have the building utilized again,” Furman said. “It's a nice building and the community definitely needed it. When seeing parents on the first day, I could tell that some were relieved. They expressed that feeling of, 'Finally, reliable daycare.' If you go to a home daycare or something like that, they might be sick or go on vacation. Here, we don't close down for things like that. It's a lot more reliable and the hours are a little bit longer."
Little Hubs Learning Center currently has seven operating classrooms for different age groups. Out of the seven, three are completely full with a waiting list.
“We still have openings in our other rooms,” Barlow said. “We have space for 106 children and we have 58 enrolled. We're at about half capacity in those. Most of them are older kids that we can take. We noticed a big need for small children, especially younger infants and toddlers under two. The amount of care that was needed for them, those rooms filled up day one. We could tell how needed it was because those parents were here immediately trying to get packets to get their children in.”
Barlow said that on the second day of operation, almost every parent she talked to said their children fell asleep early and had to be woken up the next morning.
“Because they were tired from being here and getting their energy out and having fun and playing and learning,” Barlow said. “It was great to see. The children get more socialization here and meet others and a lot of children that are their age.”
In the future, Barlow said Little Hubs Learning Center hopes to add another school-age classroom. She’d also like to host a camp for school-age kids in the summer. She’s currently working with the Rochelle Elementary School District on getting transportation to the center after school starting next year.
“I'd also like to get more active in the community and have a place here where kids can get clothing and canned goods and things that they need,” Barlow said. “Not just kids that come here, but anybody who needs anything. I'd like to get something started on that. People bring stuff in and donate it and we're able to help out people that need it."
Not only did the community play a part in advocating for a daycare to come back to Rochelle, but it also helped Little Hubs Learning Center in its work to open over recent months.
“The community has been great,” Barlow said. “Anytime I'd post on Facebook looking for something for the facility, they came through. I was short a couple of things, and people would drop something off. I needed a slide one day and somebody was there that day dropping off a slide. Anytime I needed help, the community reached out to help us with getting open. And that's how I got a lot of my staff, through word of mouth.”