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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mallene Herzog Converting A Fire Station Into A New Kind Of Day-Care That Caters To Whole Families

Alison Boggs Staff Writer

Mallene Herzog hopes parents will fill the seats vacated by children each day when her child care center closes for the night.

That’s when adult classes - including parenting, adoption counseling and family counseling - will begin.

On Sept. 3, Herzog will open The Herzog Family Center in a remodeled fire station at 27th Avenue and Grand Boulevard in Spokane.

With a staff including a teaching supervisor from Gonzaga University, a school psychologist, a family therapist and retired teachers, Herzog is planning to offer more than child care.

“I think we don’t do enough for the development of little children in child-care settings,” said Herzog, who’s focusing on hiring teachers with early childhood training.

Herzog hopes the center will be a state-approved kindergarten someday. She has applied to the state and expects a response by November.

Herzog’s center is in the process of being licensed for 30 children. It’ll have room for up to eight children age 3 months to 2 years. The age cap for other children is 12.

With the full array of classes and services, Herzog’s prices are steeper than the going rates. She charges about $40 more per week than the average child-care center. For example, for a child aged 30 months to 5 years, the average weekly full-time rate is $74. Herzog charges $115.

But, Herzog reasons, she’s hiring certified teachers and wants to pay them wages comparable to school salaries. A fee also will be charged for the adult classes.

“I think we need to recognize that quality care costs money,” Herzog said. “I think there’s a problem when we hire someone in a child-care center for minimum wage. We’re saying that we don’t value the work they do.”

Herzog, 54, has a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in education. She’s trained in Montessori techniques and in psychology.

She was a principal at Catholic schools for 10 years, first at St. John Vianney in the Spokane Valley, then at St. Charles on North Alberta. She helped start pre-schools in both schools.

With her background, Herzog said, the center will be “Christian oriented, but not affiliated with any church.”

Herzog’s former business manager at St. Charles, Suzanne Lynch, has joined in the endeavor. After three years of working together, they decided to pool their talents.

Lynch said the adult component of the center separates it from other day-care centers. “After 6 o’clock, it’s not going to just shut down. There will be parenting classes, tae kwon do classes,” she said. “We want it to be a family center.”

It’s family that made the center possible. Herzog bought an old city fire station with the help of her brothers and sisters. And Herzog’s sister-in-law, Jeanie Herzog, is the family therapist who will counsel parents and children.

Part of the center’s charm is its location. Herzog is remodeling station No. 11 in keeping with the fire station theme.

An old fire bell will bring kids in from recess. Wallpaper with Dalmatian puppies and fire engines will cover the walls of the station’s garage, which is being converted into the main activity room.

Herzog also plans to invite firefighters to the center to teach children about fire safety. Many firefighters already have visited or called to find out what’s happening to the old station.

The building has its drawbacks, too. The large garage opened right out onto Grand, just north of the busy intersection with 29th.

For a day-care center with 30 children, that’s a problem.

In remodeling, Herzog had the garage sealed with masonry and high windows. Children will use a rear entrance. A six-foot cyclone fence will separate play areas from the road.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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