CLAYPOOL — Several local organizations and Claypool residents gathered for a discussion on childcare in the Claypool and Silver Lake area on Thursday, Jan. 23.
The meeting, which was held at Claypool Elementary School, focused on the funding required to create a childcare space within the school itself, as well as the overall need and cost associated with the proposed project.
Sherry Searles, LaunchPad director, began the conversation by discussing statistics on what’s needed regarding childcare in Kosciusko County. According to Searles, there are 3,000 children under the age of 5 in the county whose parents work, whether it’s a single-parent or two-parent home. There are 248 children in the Silver Lake and Claypool area who are under the age of 5.
“There are about 1,200 known spots of childcare in the county,” said Searles. “But we are short about 1,800 childcare spots in the county. Now we know that maybe some children are going to a grandparent’s house, or maybe they’re being watched by neighbors. But we also know that there are many places that are not safe, or there are places where children are not getting what they need. There are many places where families tell us, ‘I drop off my child and pray all the way to work that they’re going to be okay.’ And that is not the way that it should be.”
Searles told those in attendance that Kosciusko County was recently awarded a $75,000 childcare desert grant. Twelve other cities in the state of Indiana were awarded similar grants.
“It’s a great start, but it’s not all that we need,” said Searles. “We have had seven childcare programs close in the last five years in the county. The reason for those closings is all financial. It is very difficult to sustain a childcare center. The average wage for an early childcare professional is $9.45 an hour. You can make $11 at Walmart.”
Searles said one of the best options to help fund the project is to get local businesses to invest. The proposed childcare center at Claypool Elementary School would be a pilot program for future childcare areas throughout the county.
LaunchPad was given permission by Warsaw Community Schools to use four classrooms within the elementary school for the childcare center. According to Searles, there would be enough space in the Claypool childcare center for 52 children.
“There would be a room for eight infants, a toddler room for 10 children and then a pre-K 1 room and a pre-K 2 room,” said Searles.
The pre-K 1 and pre-K 2 rooms would hold 14 children each, with pre-K 1 for children ages 2 and 3, and pre-K 2 for children ages 4 and 5. The childcare program would also be open year-round from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., except on major holidays.
Searles said LaunchPad is in the process of writing other grants and applying for funds from the Dekko Foundation and major employers in Kosciusko County. In total, $800,000 would have to be raised in order for the project to become a reality.
Kevin Deardorff, Kosciusko County Community Foundation board vice-president, was present at the meeting to discuss three different methods of gift options the public can use to help contribute to the project. The KCCF is helping raise funds to create the early learning program at Claypool Elementary School.
The first option would be for a business, organization or community member to fully fund one of the four classrooms. The second option allows for community members to make a one-time or recurring gift to support local families who are income-eligible for assistance. The final option lets donations go toward a general fund for the project.
Those with questions about the project can either contact Searles or Stephanie Overbey with the Kosciusko County Community Foundation.