Discussion of community childcare center continues

The Pella School Board held a work session at their Sept. 9 meeting to discuss a proposal for a community childcare center.

The Pella School Board held an interactive work session on Sept. 9 to help the board move towards a decision regarding a proposal for a community childcare center.

At a school board meeting on Aug. 12, Karin Petersen and Tricia Van Zee with Pella Corporation presented a proposal that addressed the city’s current lack of childcare and steps for a solution.

The proposal is a community childcare center, which would operate out of two separate age-focused facilities. The center would be under the umbrella of the Pella Community School District with annual financial backing from both private and public funding partnerships.

Further, the proposal suggests that the existing Pella Early Learning Center be renovated to provide childcare services for infants to 35 months; three- and four-year-olds would transition into a second facility. The Pella Shareholder Family and Pella Corporation have asked the school district to consider operating the community childhood center and constructing the second facility.

“Ensuring the availability for childcare options is one of the top community initiatives that the Pella Shareholder Family and Pella Corporation are focused on. To continue to attract and retain top talent, it is vital that current and prospective team members have access to adequate childcare. On behalf of the Pella Shareholder Family, I would like to express their commitment to providing assistance to help solve this issue for the community of Pella,” wrote Stan Van Wyk of Pella Corporation in a statement to the Chronicle.

Members of the school district and representatives from Pella Corporation, Vermeer Corporation and the PACE Alliance all participated with the board in identifying the pros and cons of the board potentially taking on the project. Answers were determined based on the results of the childcare study conducted by First Children’s Finance in 2018 and the current proposal.

Parent convenience, meeting the community’s need for childcare, maximizing all student potential, parent cost savings and attraction to the school district were all listed as pros for the three- to four-year-old facility.

Impact on existing facilities, liability, cost, shortage of staffing for three to four-year-old care and potential bond issues were listed as cons. Additionally, facility alignment with the district’s original vision/mission statement and the lack of existing curriculum for this age group were also questioned.

Similar pros and cons were listed for an infant to 35-month-old facility. However, the facility for this age group would cost significantly more to operate annually.

Questions surrounding legality and funding of the project, clarification of the district’s vision/mission statement, the cost gap, the needs gap and models from other communities who have done something similar need to be addressed and presented for the board to make an informed decision.

The next regular school board meeting will be held on Sept. 23.

Emily Hawk can be reached at ehawk@pellachronicle.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-628-3882.

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