SHULLSBURG – Declining childcare has become a national trend with two-thirds of childcare centers closing during the height of the pandemic in April 2020 and one-third remained closed until April 2021. In-home childcares have also been decreasing and that is putting Shullsburg in a bind.
Superintendent Mark Lierman told the board at their meeting Wednesday, Jan. 12 that the district will be loosing four daycares within the district by the middle of the summer.
“It is an issue for our young families,” Lierman stated. “If we want students and staff to stay in the district, we have to have daycare and I don’t know if there are families stepping up to fill that need.”
Lierman recently took a tour of the childcare center in Southwestern that is located at the school.
They are a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. childcare facility that is open five days a week, except for holidays, and also on snow days. Meals are supplied to the children through the kitchen in the school. During snow days they have other prepared meals as the kitchen and school are closed. They take children as young as infants up to age 10 and they are filled up.
“They have 110 kids that use the daycare. Some are before or after school,” Lierman said. “And they have a wait list.”
Area daycares are not hurting due to this childcare facility as they are all already full as well.
The Southwestern School District refurbished two locker room areas within the school building into the childcare rooms for around $180,000 in just two months. Lierman believes the Shullsburg School District can do the same thing for less than $25,000.
They did not hire an architect or an engineer. Their maintenance staff did most of the work with some local work being hired out for things such as masonry work. It was made into three rooms. It is part of the building but is off on a wing of the building.
“I think the key is getting the right person to lead it.” The director is a former in-home childcare owner who no longer wanted to run it out of her home.
They are not licensed but they don’t have to be when a public or private school sponsors the childcare. They are not subject to inspections or ratings.
Since they are part of the district, they do have to participate in fire drills and are equipped to take the younger children out safely.
For outdoor recreation, they have a small fenced in area with equipment to meet their needs.
The run the childcare using Fund 80 funds. The billing would come out of the school office and stated it would be similar to the Mini-miner care or Gingerbread Preschool.
“The key is not the facility. Its can you get the people here [to staff it].” Lierman asked the director and assistant director if they were full time. One is full time with benefits. The rest of them are 30 hours and have pretty flexible schedules.
Lierman praised at how impressed he was by the entire thing and believed it was something they needed to look at very seriously. He said that a prominent donor in the community brought up the issue of childcare in the community a couple of years ago due to the fact their employees didn’t have childcare and they would then move somewhere else.
“That’s one of the main reasons why they did this. They were losing kids every year. There has been staff and teachers that can’t find daycare. It’s everywhere. I think this is something that we need. It’s really important in our community,” Lierman added.
The board agreed with everything Lierman discussed. They talked about getting a survey out to potential parents in the area and also including it in their utility bill to get the information to parents with young children not yet in school.
Lierman went around with maintenance director Kenny Westemeier to look at the facility and find potential places for the center to be located in the building.
“I’m excited about it. I think it would be great for our community.”
For those interested in or wanting to know more about having childcare at the school, please contact the district.