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Considering Childcare: The Impact on Districts, Communities, and Families

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 School Business Affairs magazine and may be reprinted with permission of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). The text herein does not necessarily represent the views or policies of ASBO International, and use of this imprint does not imply any endorsement or recognition by ASBO International and its officers or affiliates.

 

District-based childcare that extends to the community can promote teacher retention and serve as a recruiting strategy for local businesses.

by Jody Andres AIA LEED AP and Kurt Peeters AIA WELL AP

As birth rates decrease and in the wake of some parents’ post-COVID-19 pandemic decision to homeschool or send their children to parochial or private education institutions, public school enrollment has declined. Countless school districts now have quality education space available for expanded services and curriculum. At the same time, districts are facing critical staffing shortages and must be innovative in their strategies to fill their teaching ranks.

 

"The community's ability to attract young families will increase because of the expanded childcare opportunities."

Jody Andres

K-12 Market Leader

 

 

A simple SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis tells us that education institutions with unused space–and perhaps some without–should explore the possibility of providing childcare in those spaces. Adding a day-care component offers schools, communities, employers, and citizens many benefits:

Staffing. As teachers, administrators, and staff consider their employment options, on-site childcare can be an appealing benefit. School districts can offer preferred childcare placement for staff and faculty members. Additionally, offering childcare as a full or partial paid benefit can make the district even more attractive, thus aiding with retention and recruitment.

Continuum of learning. School districts can expand learning opportunities for preschool students by offering an integrated curriculum to provide an early start to a child’s educational path. Young parents will have access to education professionals who can serve as role models and can outline a path to foundational academic success.

Community impact. The community’s ability to attract young families will increase because of the expanded childcare opportunities. The community provides this resource not only for local professionals, but also for those organizations that are recruiting for open positions. One of the first issues young professionals consider before taking a position in a new location is the access to and availability of a qualified day-care facility.

School funding. In many states, funding follows the student, so it makes good fiscal sense to offer early learning options. If younger children are not included in your state’s funding model, offering childcare still makes financial sense, as it’s likely that when parents do consider kindergarten options they will stay with the district where their children attended preschool. Students come for the childcare program and stay for the rest of their education.

Better competition. With programs such as open enrollment and school vouchers, districts are competing with their neighboring communities for families and students. If you have the opportunity to get them in the door earlier, you have a leg up on the competition.

Quality childcare professionals. School districts are often in the position to offer day-care staff a benefits package that independent day cares are unable to provide, thus attracting and retaining quality childcare staff. Staff turnover in many private facilities is a significant issue because employee wages are close to the poverty rate.

Additional revenue source.  Adding a revenue source via a preschool program provides an opportunity to off-set increases in other expenses and can positively affect the district’s bottom line.

Access to services. Some of the children who would be served by your district’s day care would not otherwise have access to the social and developmental services you offer, such as a school nurse, a healthy breakfast, or a counseling professional.

CASE STUDY: Shiocton Child Care Center
Shiocton Child Care Center (SCCC) is an on-site daycare program located within the Shiocton Elementary School in Wisconsin. It opened in August 2018, and the program’s success and demand have driven the district to consider expansion. The SCCC offers part-time and full-time care for children six weeks old to school age, and includes an infant room, toddler room, and space for two-year-olds and preschool classes.

Additionally, Shiocton area school-age children can receive before- and after-school care, as well as summertime programming. The facility offers care not only for the teachers and staff of the school district, but also for the community. For Shiocton, it is especially convenient because the largest city in the area is 25-30 minutes away, which is where many members of the community live or work.

The stated purpose of the center is to provide quality, affordable care for the children of the immediate and surrounding communities in an environment that supports the development and growth of each child.

CASE STUDY: Dellwood Childcare Center
In Clintonville, Wisconsin, the Clintonville Public School District converted its elementary school into the Dellwood Childcare Center that serves approximately 100 children, from infants to four-year-olds.

Having quality day care in the Clintonville area has been a topic of conversation for many years. With the opening of this new facility, the city expects the overall student and staff population to grow because of the added benefit to the community.

The 17,000-square-foot school was modified to create a state-licensed, code-compliant day-care facility featuring dedicated day-care spaces, office space, multipurpose areas, and gross-motor-skills spaces along with an outdoor playground.

THE NEXT FRONTIER
If your school district does not currently offer childcare, consider hiring professionals to perform a value assessment and provide a cost-benefit analysis. If you head in this direction, take a multifaceted approach to examine all pros and cons from the standpoint of your community’s needs. In our experience, we’ve found that the advantages to local families, a district, and a region can be significant.

As you do your due diligence, interview those district administrators who have begun to offer day care in the past five years and mine for information on the obstacles, challenges, and benefits. Look at the numbers, listen to the stories, and discover whether this should be the next frontier that will help your community and your bottom line.