By Ray Balogh
KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Kosciusko County’s Child Care and Early Learning Coalition, also known as LaunchPad, recently received a Desert Grant from Early Learning Indiana. Funds were open to any Indiana county considered to be a child care desert.
The Desert Grant is designed to help address the fact more than four of every 10 children in Indiana live in a child care desert. Currently, there is a shortage of about 1,800 licensed or registered child care spots in Kosciusko County.
LaunchPad received $75,000 from Early Learning Indiana, which was invested into two new early learning programs in the Wawasee school district.
One is at Syracuse Elementary School for children of Wawasee Community Schools employees. The second is at North Webster Elementary School and is open to any family with children ages 3-5 looking for preschool.
Dr. Tom Edington, superintendent of Wawasee Community Schools said, “Wawasee schools, after working with LaunchPad for Kosciusko County, realized an immediate need for additional early childhood services in our area. Additional requests came from area industrial and business owners who were losing quality employees due to unmet child care needs.
“Wawasee was able to move forward, with great community assistance, for both a staff child care at Syracuse Elementary School and a community early learning center at North Webster Elementary School. Response to the LaunchPad initiated programs has been excellent,” he said.
“In addition, as a school responsible for training students for future job opportunities, Wawasee is able to allow high school interns at the child care programs, filling a need for able and responsible individuals for future employment,” said Edington.
“Our Wawasee community needs good and reliable child care to thrive as a community. Wawasee schools will continue partnering with LaunchPad to fill that need.”
Director of Special Services Jennifer Phillips said, “The research regarding investing in early childhood has proven to really transform communities. By doing so, we hope to grow programs that help our young Wawasee learners to experience successful transitions into schools and be able to excel academically, socially and emotionally.
“The lack of quality child care and early learning programs in our community is notable when you talk to any working parent in the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Providing these opportunities relieves the burden parents have felt, especially recently with the closing of several child care programs.
“Relieving the burden of finding quality programs allows community members to refocus on their ability to work, which will have a positive economic impact on the community in the future.”
Both programs opened their doors when school started last week and are using the HighScope Curriculum.
For more information on enrollment, please contact Wawasee Community Schools at (574) 457-3188.