The handing off of car seats and the pitter-patter of little feet will soon become common sights and sounds at the Village of Cross Keys with the news that childcare center Kiddie Calvert will relocate there.
Kiddie Calvert—an early childhood education center for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children currently housed at the Calvert School campus in Tuscany-Canterbury—plans to expand into the North Baltimore mixed-use community of The Village of Cross Keys in September 2021. Area working families in desperate need of more daycare options and community members eager to see new life injected into the aging Cross Keys are likely to welcome the development. The childcare center will go into the space below the previous Donna’s restaurant location, near the store Talbots.
The brainchild of visionary developer James Rouse, Cross Keys opened to much fanfare in the 1960s but has struggled in recent years with increasing vacancies in its commercial spaces. The recent $27 million purchase of the commercial assets of Cross Keys by Caves Valley Partners, which promises extensive upgrades, has been met with optimism by current Cross Keys residents like Marjorie Goodman. In January 2020 she heard Arsh Mirmiran, a partner at Caves Valley, discuss the revitalization plans at a Roland Park Civic League meeting. “Now I’m not going anywhere… I have renewed hope,” Goodman was quoted in an article in baltimorefishbowl.com.
Current residents of Cross Keys aren’t alone in their excitement about the community’s pending overhaul. Melissa Hood, director of Kiddie Calvert, says she’s looking forward to expanding the daycare for children ages 10 weeks to five years of age in a central location with new amenities, an outdoor play space, and a dedicated parking area for parents. “We really want to get the reputation of Calvert out to the entire Baltimore community. We weren’t able to do that before,” Hood said.
The original Kiddie Calvert launched at the independent school in 2007 as a service to faculty and staff whose children were too young to attend the K-8 private co-ed school. When Hood came on board as director in 2009, there were only about 10 families enrolled. In 2016, the program moved into renovated space at the original campus and enrollment eventually rose to its current number of about 85 families. Hood says the new, second location—Kiddie Calvert Cross Keys—will be able to accommodate about the same number of children as the original center.
The timing was right, explains Hood. “We saw the need for childcare. Our waitlist continued to expand,” she said.
Local parents can relate. Towson mom Julie Tewey said she started looking for daycare almost immediately after learning she was pregnant. She and her husband toured six daycares within 30 minutes of their home and were waitlisted on all of them. Ultimately, they landed a spot in one daycare—only because her husband was employed at the workplace where it was located. “Finding daycare was one of the biggest headaches and stressors that I never expected as an expecting mother,” Tewey observed.
Others agree. Another local parent said her daycare provider knew she was pregnant with her second child even before her parents did. She felt it was that critical to get on the waiting list for infants as soon as possible—despite having one child already enrolled at the center.
The number of full-day center-based day care programs and family-based child care providers in Baltimore City has dropped in recent years, and the downward trajectory is expected to continue over the next several years, according to data from the Maryland Family Network.
COVID hasn’t helped. “At the peak of COVID we surveyed child care providers in Maryland. Fifty one percent said they may close for good if substantial investments are not made in the industry,” said Doug Lent, communications director at the Maryland Family Network.
“Imagine what would happen to Maryland’s workforce if half of child care closed,” Lent noted. “Many parents, likely women, would leave the workforce.”
The opening of Kiddie Calvert Cross Keys will offer at least a slight reprieve to the supply deficit in Baltimore’s daycare industry. That the program has already established a presence in Baltimore may also work in its favor. “Our intent is to mirror our Tuscany-Canterbury location,” Hood said. “The overall philosophy and mission will be the same.”