SHULLSBURG – At their Wednesday, May 11 meeting, the Shullsburg School Board of Education approved moving forward with establishing an onsite daycare by advertising for a Daycare Director to start prior to the 2022-2023 school year.
Building and Grounds Committee chair Casey Fennell informed the board about how the idea came about. The Building and Grounds committee visited the Southwestern School District in March and toured their onsite daycare. They provide a year round daycare from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and watch children from six weeks old to 12 years old with an after school program.
The Daycare Director works with the District Administrator to utilize school functions like lunches and some materials. The staff and daycare facility are fully funded through enrollment. The only person that is being paid by the district is the director.
The committee members stated how clean the facility was and how well it ran. The daycare uses mobile device Apps that each parent has so they are informed of when their child is fed, when they have their diaper changed, when they are down for a nap, etc. There are also cameras in every room and in the hallway to monitor the children and staff. Everything is recorded and the director has access to those recordings at any time.
The facility has a secure Key Fob entrance. Parents can sign in their children using the App on their phones and then bring them in the secured location to drop them off.
The facility opened with a soft opening but by the time they were ready to open full time they already had a full enrollment and now have a waiting list. The director at Southwestern stated she was interested to see Shullsburg looking into the idea and was anxious for them to open because she could supply them with those on her wait list. She also told the committee she has run a facility before coming to Southwestern and stated there is always going to be a need for daycare.
Southwestern is not a licensed daycare and they don’t have to be because they are within an educational building or a public building so they don’t need to have inspections.
The Building and Grounds committee met with Southwestern’s maintenance manager to discuss what they had done to their building. Southwestern changed a locker room into the toddler room, for those kids two to three years old. They used the old music room for the baby room.
There are two locations the committee was looking at placing the daycare in the building; at the end of the elementary wing or in the center of the school, near to computer lab where there are open rooms available. In discussing this with the building inspector, they said that infants and toddlers would need a ground level exit in case of a fire, those individuals could be put in mobile cribs and rolled out of the facility.
The committee asked a community survey with six questions. 93 people responded with an age range form 18-74. The main questions they looked at were ‘Do you support or oppose a daycare in the school?’ and ‘If yes, what enrollment would we get from you?’.
Seventy-eight percent stated they were in favor of the daycare and the potential enrollment from the survey was 43.
For building locations, the lower level section by the Head Start area does have a bathroom and has several empty classrooms. There may be a potential noise issue as that area is used as a pass through for several high school and junior high students going from the commons in front of the gym back up to the classrooms. The location also has an issue with a secure entrance, and drop off and pick up but it is available and open.
The other location is at the lower end by the elementary wing. It is ground level. It has a secure exit and entrance and it does have bathrooms in the classrooms. There is an issue with some of the elementary classrooms will have to move. With shifting the classrooms, the district needs to make sure that all of their current offerings are not harmed because they cannot take away something they are currently offering. There will be noise so a noise barrier would need to be added.
Amber Russell asked about drop off/pick up parking by the elementary area if there is a current issue with parking.
Fennell stated they could ask the city to put in diagonal parking or request no parking spots on the road but understood that parking is an issue in general.
District Administrator Mark Lierman stated that during COVID-19, the elementary students would enter the building at the main doors near the office. He suggested having the student’s do the same thing and make that lower entrance be solely for daycare participants and teachers.
“In my mind that end of the building makes the most sense only because it is the natural progression for growth; they work their way up the building. Those kids would grow up and have an understanding of the school culture. I think it is an added benefit for our younger children’s development through the school,” Fennell said.
He added that he didn’t think the district should do any sort of modifications or even choosing a location until they have hired a director.
“The director needs to be part of that decision making on what enrollment will be and what the classroom looks like,” Fennell said.
Russell asked, “Whatever [classrooms] we take away we would be able to give back?”
“We would have to. There is no way we can take away from what we are offering the public and our students. We are offering a public service with this but we can’t have it at the expense of our students,” Fennell explained.
Fennell said that one of the perks of having an onsite daycare is the potential of hiring new staff because they can find daycare for their children.
Southwestern used Fund 80 funds to build and renovate and run the daycare center. They hope that after this year they will be self-funded and not have to use any Fund 80 funds. Their enrollment cap is 107 right now and that is with their before and after school program.
“I think the survey speaks volumes. People know we need a daycare. Businesses in town say that employees of theirs would love here if there was daycare.
Jacinda Gunnell made the motion of establishing an onsite daycare conditional upon the successful hiring of a daycare director to begin prior to the start of 2022-2023 school year with Fennell seconding. The motion passed unanimously.