After providing childcare programs to Dawson County families for more than 12 years, the Dawson Learning Center is closing its doors on June 1.
Owners Roger Slaton and his son Barry Slaton cited a downturn in the economy, loss of state funding for its pre-kindergarten program, and high operating expenses as reasons for the closure.
Weve struggled for more than a year and after getting advice from my accountant and bank, it was time to do this, said the elder Slaton. Its really a sad day for Dawson County because weve lost a high-quality childcare place.
The Slatons own the land and the one-story brick building at 40 Hightower Pkwy., where the daycare center was housed. They plan to continue operating their insurance and real estate businesses from offices located in the building. They also hope to lease the open space.
Dawson Learning Center has 12 employees who are now without jobs. Many like Director Jennifer Cote have been at their posts since the center opened in 2000.
Im not sure what Im going to do, she said. These kids are all like my babies. I wish I could take them all home, but I cant.
Cotes two children attended the daycare and other programs since they were 4 years old. Both are now in high school.
Were like a big family here, she said, fighting back tears. Theres been very little turnover, and both my children had Karen Garrett as their teacher. How can you put a price on that?
Cote moved to Dawson County in 2000 to escape the schools in nearby Fulton County, where increasing student populations often meant children were moved from school to school. She said a friend who works at Blacks Mill Elementary School told her the schools in Dawson County were very good.
I wouldnt be raising my children anywhere else, she said. I love Dawson County.
A recent graduate from Dawson County High School and recipient of the MVP Tigers girl soccer award, Emily Stowers attended Dawson Learning Center when she was in elementary school. She participated in after-school programs and summer camp, and enjoyed going to Braves games and the movies. She also remembers that her teachers were young and fun.
It was an awesome experience, said Stowers. My sister and I both went there. The food was good, and the teachers were fun to hang out with. We always looked forward to going. It wasnt a hardship. Her mother agrees. Back then I was a single, working mom., said Vickie Uselton. I left early and got home late, and it made me feel better knowing they were at a safe place and being taken care of. I remember they were always busy roller skating, going to Six Flags ... all sorts of activities. More than 700 children attended programs at the Dawson Learning Center during the past 12 years, according to Director Cote. The loss of 12 jobs at the center, plus the additional 12 jobs lost when the Dawsonville Pool Room was seized, brings the two-week total job loss to 24