‘Child Care Desert’ Grant to Open More Care Opportunities
OLEAN, NY – Parents everywhere know the child care struggle. It’s expensive, hard to find, and even harder to secure an affordable (and available) child care program, especially here in Western New York.
A child care solution will soon be open to dozens of area families and current members of the Archbishop Walsh Academy/Southern Tier Catholic School community. Through the Invest in New York – Child Care Desert grant, STCS will open a new Montessori-based Child Care Program within the small, private academy by Nov. 21.
Grant funding up to $400,000 from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services will launch an affordable program called Evergreen Childcare, LLC at the Walsh/STCS campus, 208 N. 24th. St.. It’ll include six daycare rooms – two infant rooms for up to 16 children, two toddler rooms for 24 children, and two preschool rooms for 34 children. It’ll also support a program for school-aged child care before and after school and during holiday breaks.
“This grant is a life-saver for so many parents, guardians and families. This area truly is a child care desert, and so many have long struggled with access to safe, compassionate care while leading busy work lives,” said program director Ashlyn Burt, who noted she too has shared in the child care struggle with her two young children. “That’s why, as an educator and working mother myself, I’m so proud to be building this new program at Walsh/STCS from the ground up.”
The school is currently accepting applications from parents/guardians to enroll, as well as to hire four lead teachers and at least six assistants. The program will also accept volunteers who pass a rigorous background check, Burt said.
The child care program will follow the school’s current Montessori-based format for early-childhood education. It emphasizes the importance of outdoor play, sensory experiences, social and emotional learning, and early language arts and math skills. It’ll be open to all children and families, regardless of faith affiliation.
“All of these Montessori benefits have been proven here at STCS for many years in our younger education programs,” Burt said. “While we’re a private Catholic school and the curriculum prizes faith-based values, it’s really about how all of that combines with the well-rounded, nurturing environment we provide for children to play, learn and prepare to thrive at the next level.”
Efforts are underway at the school to prepare the on-campus child care classrooms.
“The painting and other design elements have been so fun,” Burt said, “just creating a perfect, little environment for our young ones to feel welcome and engaged.”
To new Walsh/STCS President Dr. Colleen Taggerty, the Evergreen Childcare, LLC program is yet another step toward improving the school’s footprint as a strong educational resource. Earlier this year, Walsh/STCS also opened the Volpe International Residence Hall to house cohorts of international boarding students.
“We’re working so hard to fulfill the school’s current educational mission while evolving it for new generations of students locally, regionally and even internationally,” Dr. Taggerty said. “Having this new child care option in our chronically underserved area will help many current and future Walsh/STCS families.”
Chronically underserved is the key term, added Burt. The grant’s decision-makers – who have allotted $100 million for “child care deserts” across New York state – aim to provide ample opportunity for parents/guardians having difficulty finding and securing child care.
“The algorithm found our area has five children to every child care spot available. That leaves 80 percent of guardians here having to make difficult decisions – often between working and staying home,” Burt said. “To combat this shortage, they opened up a grant for new providers to open many more child care spaces. While we will not be able to completely fix the shortage, it will be way less of a struggle to find care in our area.”
And it’ll be cost-effective. Full-time rates will be:
- Infants (0-18 months): $270/week
- Toddlers (18 months-3 years): $255/week
- Preschool (3-5 years old): $240/week
- School age (5 years and up): $195/week
Job opportunities are posted to Indeed (https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Archbishop-Walsh-Highschool/jobs). Further inquiries may be directed to Ashlyn Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.