The Pella School Board decided they will not proceed with the development of a full-time early childcare center owned and operated by the school district during a two-hour work session on Oct. 14.
Board members voted against the potential project after an extensive discussion about the cost and needs gap, the legality of the project, how the project aligns with the school district’s vision and what other school districts are doing to meet childcare needs.
At a school board meeting held on Aug. 12, Tricia Van Zee and Karin Peterson with Pella Corporation presented an agenda that addressed Pella’s current need for childcare. In the proposal, the school district would own and operate two facilities for children ages zero to five with annual financial backing from both private and public funding partnerships.
Board members were not comfortable proceeding as the lead organization for childcare in the community, citing financial risks related to funding and ongoing costs, staffing difficulties and an overall conflict with the school district’s current vision.
“Because my degree is in early childhood, I think there’s a lot that the general public doesn’t know about the intricacies of providing really good, high quality, early childhood care,” said school board president Joan Corbin. “Not because people don’t care, but it’s just not on their radar to know that there are lots of steps to provide the best, quality care for a zero to six-month-old… we do everything else high-quality … that said, if we couldn’t do it that way, that would give me distress.”
However, board members agreed to have administration further work on and assess the school district’s facility need’s plan. The plan currently cites expanding Jefferson Intermediate School as one of its number one priorities, and a potential preschool facility that would include some level of wrap-around childcare was also an interest expressed by board members.
In other news:
• Board members met with Iowa State Senators Amy Sinclair and Ken Rozenboom, as well as Representative Dustin Hite, to discuss issues related to state support, funding and programming for public schools. Sinclair and Rozenboom both serve on the Education Committee, and all three try to meet with the school board annually for discussion.