One of the biggest headaches for working parents -- particularly mothers -- is reliable childcare. A district that opened an on-site daycare center for employees and the community finds it gives administrators an edge in recruiting and retaining faculty. Included: Information about setting up an in-school daycare center.
Like many working mothers, principal Roseanne Kurposka drops her 3-year-old daughter off at a daycare center on her way to work. Fortunately for Kurposka, though, work and daycare take only one stop.
Four years ago, at the urging of several principals, the Mendon/Upton (Massachusetts) Regional Schools opened the Little Learners Child Development Center in one of its school buildings. Faculty and community members are eligible to use the services.
Every morning, Kurposka and her daughter walk to her office, where she drops off her belongings before escorting her daughter to the daycare center. Its comforting to know shes in the building, said Kurposka, the principal of Miscoe Hill School, where Little Learners is located. If she gets sick, Im right here.
The idea for the daycare center came from Ruth Danforth, principal of Memorial Elementary School, who now serves as chairwoman of the advisory board for the center. We did a needs survey of the staff, and a lot of people talked about it, Danforth told Education World. We did a lot of surveys and a lot of the existing providers had waiting lists. Were also providing a service to the community.
About 46 children are enrolled in Little Learners; 70 percent of them are children of district employees, and the rest come from the community, said the centers director, Kathy Moore. Little Learners has children as young as 3 months old up to 5 years old. The center has seven full-time and five part-time employees, and is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. The program has a waiting list, Moore added.
Danforth, whose background is in early childhood education, said her main goal was to establish a facility within a district building. The staff members love it, she told Education World. They feel really valued as employees. They love not having to make an extra stop every day. Our schools are very close together, so the teachers can see their children during the day.
If the district is holding a staff development program after school or during the summer, faculty can pay a little extra to have their children stay at the daycare center, Danforth continued, and not worry about having to rush home to pick them up.
Some fathers who drop off and/or pick up their children have said that they are really enjoying the time they get to spend with their children in the car, she added.
Among the benefits for community members who enroll their children are that they get to know the school system, some teachers, and other parents when their children are very young, Danforth noted. They start with us in the district and stay with us, she said. We get to know the children and their families earlier.
Little Learners also gives the district an edge in recruiting, and it is an incentive for staff members to stay, Danforth said. If you have something on-site, you can attract and retain quality staff, she said. You can attract younger staff members and teachers can return to work sooner after having a baby.
We try to attract the best and the brightest, Danforth continued. We may not have the highest salaries in the area, but we do have this.
Kurposka noted that she has mentioned the daycare center in interviews with prospective teachers, and know weve attracted quality people because of it.
Kurposaka enrolled her daughter at the center when she was 15 months old. She usually drops her off between 7 and 7:30 a.m. and picks her up between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. or, if she is working late, her husband picks up their daughter. Staying up to ten hours a day at the center is considered attending full-time.
If it werent for this, I would have looked for something in the town where I live, which is 30 minutes away, Kurposka told Education World. This way I can ride to school and home with her every day and sometimes I see her in the halls. And I know the people working with her so well.
Setting up a daycare center was not as difficult as some people might think, Danforth said. The key is hiring a director who either knows or learns the regulations for taking care of young children.
The school already had space available and some of the furniture came from an old pre-school program. The district did have to invest in cribs, strollers, changing tables, and some other equipment needed for very young children. But supplies can be ordered more cheaply because they can be included in requests for bids for the school system, said Danforth.
Little Learners also takes advantage of the opportunity to have older children interact with the younger children. Miscoe students often visit the daycare center to read to the younger ones and give presentations. Some of the sixth and seventh graders made digital storybooks for the children, Kurposka added.
Despite the convenience and advantages for staff members, Danforth conceded that many superintendents might be reluctant to open a daycare center in their districts, because they are nervous about having such young children in a school.
Superintendents get scared away because its a different population, she said. Most dont have a background in early childhood education. But you dont have to re-invent the wheel. You do have to have someone who can take charge.
School leaders who are considering childcare programs should go forward because the benefits to a district are numerous, Moore noted, including the positive atmosphere small children can create in a building.
Any superintendent or principal who sees these children during the day just has to smile, she said.
Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Copyright © 2009 Education World
Originally published 02/11/2008
Last updated 02/13/2009