Is it possible that if enough people keep lamenting Crookston’s major shortage of child care slots that something positive almost has to happen at some point?
The topic is coming up constantly, with the latest discussions taking place during U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s visit to Crookston, and also at the Crookston City Council’s Ways & Means Committee meeting.
“It’s a huge issue, a huge Minnesota priority,” Klobuchar said while touring Agassiz Townhomes. “It’s all we’re hearing about in all of these towns we’re visiting.”
Klobuchar urged Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson and other local officials to reach out to officials in the southern Minnesota city of Benson, about half the size of Crookston, where a child care center is not only located in the high school, but students help out at the center. Klobuchar said the Benson center is breaking even financially and has made a huge impact on the community.
Meanwhile, after saying CHEDA would more aggressively tackle the child care shortage challenge if it had some funding to leverage for a potential child care center – the council committee subsequently agreed to give CHEDA $350,000 in 2019 for various strategic investments – CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth tells the times that, in the wake of Northwest Minnesota Foundation CEO Nancy Vyskocil’s visit to CHEDA last week at which the child care shortage dominated the conversation, he’s meeting on Oct. 29 with representatives from Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, the NMF and First Children’s Finance.
“Partnering with (the NMF) will be critical,” Hoiseth said. “Already we know about local employers like Riverview and those we met with during Manufacturers’ Week that are interested in participating to help in this issue, as have the school district and University of Minnesota Crookston.”
“Able-bodied people are leaving the work place because of child care issues,” RiverView Health CEO Carrie Michalski said.
A $50,000 Minnesota DEED grant awarded last year to help address the shortage has resulted in funding going to five home daycares, City Administrator Shannon Stassen said, and another is pending. But some of the gains have been offset, he said previously, by others retiring or leaving the business.
Hoiseth said a couple local providers have the experience to potentially operate a center. Stassen said a couple center plans have been forwarded by individuals to Tri-Valley, and the City and CHEDA stepped in to see what might work. Some sort of subsidy, at least up-front, Hoiseth said, is likely going to be necessary.
Nov. 5 informational session
For anyone who has ever thought about opening their own child care business but has questions, there will be an informational session on Monday, Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room at Tri-Valley Opportunity Council.
Staff from Child Care Aware and the Polk County Child Care Licensor will provide information on family child care licensing at the Nov. 5 session. There will also be information on startup grants to help you get into the business, and door prizes.
If you cannot attend the meeting but have an interest in child care and you would like to ask some questions, contact Maureen Hams at 281-5832 or email@example.com.
Crookston ECI, Summit involved
The Crookston Early Childhood Initiative and Crookston Early Childhood Summit are also working to tackle the issue by providing new child care providers with a “welcome basket” filled with educational materials, early childhood resources and information to share with families they serve. New providers to receive the materials include Lizzy Awender, Amber Kunstleben, Mandie Stoe, Bobbie Jo Hebert, and Stephanie Nelson.