Members of the Creston Child Care Committee discussed Union County’s designation as a ‘child care desert’ and possible long-term solutions with the Creston Community School Board Monday evening during their regular meeting via virtual means.
The Center for American Progress defines a child care desert as ‘any census tract with more than 50 children younger than age 5 that has no child care providers or has more than three times as many children as it has licensed child care slots. Currently, 23 percent of all Iowans live in a child care desert.
To rectify this, the Creston Child Care Committee was formed, hoping to create a new child care center. This committee consists of members from various banks, organizations and institutions. Members of the committee present at the board meeting were Amy Rieck, chief human resources officer at Greater Regional Health, Wayne Pantini, executive director of the Union County Development Association and Deron Stender, superintendent of the Creston Community School District.
“We a part of that discussion and part of this group in looking long-term to try and meet the needs our community has for child care services and for quality learning opportunities,” said Stender. “There’s an opportunity that our current early childhood building could be a potential site of that.”
The Creston Child Care Committee provided a memorandum of understanding to the board intended to define a working arrangement among CCSD, Matura Head Start, GRH, Southwestern Community College, Quad Counties 4 Kids and Child Care Resource & Referral of Southwest Iowa regarding the renovation and proposed long-term use of a designated space at the Early Childhood Center.
Members will work with the Southern Iowa Council of Governments to apply for grants while also seeking additional business partners to contribute to annual funding to help offset the cost of running a childcare development center.
“We have reached out to a number of businesses in our community that want to see this happen,” said Rieck. “We surveyed over 400 employees to make sure this is something they wanted to see happen, and it was number one on our list. We need daycare in our community.”
As for the prospect of merging child care centers, the Union County DBA I think I Can Childcare Board of Directors is a collaborating partner in the Union County Child Care Collaboration Plan, and had stated in the memorandum that they “support the proposed center to serve the children in Union County as one rather than having two centers in town, and hope to see this project move forward.”
The project has already garnered potential financial support, with school board member Don Gee speaking on behalf of the Early Childhood Iowa Quad Counties Board, for which he is also a member.
“We have helped Bedford out and East Union out, and we would be more than willing to help you guys out,” said Gee. “It’s going to depend on what our financial situation looks like on how much we can donate, but we would be more than willing to donate.”
Members of the school board voiced support for the project, particularly respecting the collaborative effort taken.
“The fact that It’s not just the school and it’s not just one organization, the hospital is involved, the college is involved, the community businesses are involved, we see that need,” said board member Dr. Brad James. “Yeah, our job on the school board is to look out for the school, but I think it’s important to look out for the entire community. At the end of the day, these are the kids that are going to be in our schools.”
Possible locations for the facility have been discussed, with ideas ranging from using and renovating the current building to construction in an entirely new area of property. Additionally, the committee will need to hire a director for the early childhood development center.
The timeline for the project is set to take approximately a year before construction begins. The hiring process for a director is the first step, with the development of the organizational structure and governing board of the new center set to be completed by August. By October, the final facilities plan and funding strategy is due, allowing for construction to begin by March 2021.
In other school board news, the board:
• were provided a comprehensive facilities review by Estes Construction.
• unanimously approved the revised 2020-21 Creston Staff Handbook.
• unanimously approved a safety equipment resolution to transfer $13,418.09 from the general fund to the activity fund for equipment.
• unanimously approved the 2020-21 Special Education Services Delivery Plan.
• passed the 2020-21 Teacher Leadership Compensation plan with a vote of 4-1, with board member Sharon Snodgrass voting against.
• unanimously approved the 2020-21 IJAG Agreement.
• unanimously approved the resolution pandemic response and emergency suspension of policy, suspending graduation requirements for the 2020 graduates.
• went into closed session to discuss strategy matters relating to the employment of the superintendent. After the session, the board unanimously approved a one-year contract extension for Stender, extending to 2023.