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Manistee early childhood center closed due to Little River Band resolution

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Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Ogema Larry Romanelli of the Little River Band in Manistee is dealing with the ramifications of the Tribal council's resolution limiting enrollment at the Next Generation Learning Center to Tribal children only.

The Next Generation Learning Center in Manistee educated children from infants to 12 years old. In August, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, which operates the center, passed a controversial resolution limiting enrollment to Tribal children only.

Now, the learning center is closed due to staff and families leaving over the resolution.

“Employees within the center were not happy with the announcement,” says Little River Band Tribal Ogema Larry Romanelli. “We had a couple people that resigned right away and that caused a staffing shortage.”

Non-eligible families had 45 days to find a different daycare. But according to Romanelli, some families removed their kids from the program because they were upset.

“Some of the Tribal people, and some of these were our employees as well, were not happy with [the resolution] being done in that way, so they found daycare elsewhere.”

Romanelli says grant funding was also lost as a result of the Tribal council's decision.

“Almost immediately I received a call from one of our grantors saying that by making the changes, it violated the grant.”

Ogema Romanelli says a lot needs to be done to figure out how to re-open the center and he’s in talks with other community members about childcare in the area.

But overall, he’s frustrated.

“I’m disappointed because I don’t think it helps the relationship within the community…The community helps the Tribe and the Tribe helps the community,” Romanelli says “We are the largest employer in the area, but we also need to work within the community and I think this does not help our public relations in the area.”