Winfield school district creates in-school daycare to help keep teachers in classroom

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 10:10 PM CDT
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WINFIELD, Kan. (KWCH) - Winfield Public Schools wants to keep its teachers in its classrooms. But educators are coming up against a challenge, trying to find childcare for their own kids.

“I had three teachers that we lost because they went to a district that had a daycare,” Country View Elementary School Principal Desaree Groene said.

Groene went to the Winfield school board with a plan to offer daycare in the district’s schools. She said the COVID-19 slowed down the process to get it off the ground.

“We need to find something. I have young teachers that are going to end up moving from our district because there’s no daycare in town that they can find,” said Groene.

Irving Elementary School Principal Jeff Everett said, “It’s critical to find good, quality teachers at any age [level] but especially at the elementary level to set that foundation.”

It will be piloted this first year at Country View and Irving elementary schools.

“We’re just really excited to get all the young kids in here. We’re not used to seeing infants and toddlers at the elementary school,” said Everett.

“I’m really excited,” said Groene. “I have a background in early childhood and, I’m really excited to get that baby fix.”

Rooms where the daycares will be set up are under construction, slated to open next month.

“I know that I would have lost a lead person in my building this year if we wouldn’t have gotten this up and going. And luckily, her in-laws and her parents are making it work until October, mid-October when we can actually open our doors,” Groene said of the daycare at Country View Elementary School.

Once the daycares open, the first priority will be going to staff and then the district’s Parents as Teachers, but the district said if there are still open spots, it’ll open it up to the rest of the community, and this is a program it expects will be growing in the years to come.

Winfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nathan Reed said, “Maybe expand this into our other two elementary schools, partner with the city, the county, the college. I mean this could grow and be a wonderful thing for our community.”

Dr. Reed said the district is looking at six to nine spots at each daycare site to start with the possibility of adding staff to grow the program if the district has more interest.

The district said this does more than just retain teachers and staff. It helps when Winfield Public Schools is looking to hire.

Everett said, “A year or two ago, we noticed it was harder, has been harder recruit quality staff, not only teachers but support staff.”

“Say ‘hey, we have this option for your family,’ and to give them an affordable and trustworthy place to send their kids will be a huge, huge recruiting factor,” Groene said.

“I anticipate next year that this will be something that we will definitely have at the forefront when we’re out seeing teachers,” said Dr. Reed.

The community has also donated supplies to help get the daycare centers started.

Dr. Reed said, “This is not an innovative approach and it’s happening in a lot of places but we just see this as a complete benefit for our district in offering this kind of thing.”

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The district is hiring staff for the daycare centers and received some items donated by the community to help get the service started.

A report by ChildCare Aware Kansas shows in Cowley County, there are 51 child care facilities, which is down. Also, it estimates that of the total number of kids 6 and younger who would need child care, the current resources have the capacity to meet about 36 percent of the need.

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