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How one Wisconsin school district is trying to prevent parents from moving away due to 'daycare deserts'

Virus Outbreak Child Care
Posted at 6:45 AM, Nov 24, 2021

WAUPACA COUNTY -- In our Two Americas series, we are spotlighting daycare deserts in rural communities.

Waupaca County has such a small availability of child care providers that parents are moving away.

"Here if they have any daycare, it's all "in-house" - it's mothers staying home with their kids and also offering daycare to their kids," said district administrator Phillip Tubbs.

So this district decided to do something about it, which could catch on everywhere.

By March of next year, a space inside Weyawega Fremont School will be called 'Little Hawk Daycare.'

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It has gotten to this point because of declining enrollment. Tubbs says a decade ago there were more than 1,000 students. This year, there are about 850.

He wanted to know why.

"I called and emailed over 73 different families and we learned that 16 of them have left...because of daycare," Tubbs said.

That affects both funding and class sizes, Tubbs says.

If daycare is the core issue, district leaders hope this will help solve it. They want to care for up to 50 children to start.

Their newly hired childcare director Hope Steiger understands how hard it is to find childcare as a mother in this rural area. She has a baby boy due any day now.

"I was 3 months pregnant and we were holding a spot for him. [At] some childcare centers, your spot holding fee can be $100 a week."

Steiger hopes to take care of three and four-year-old children to start. The district plans to pay childcare workers $15-$18 an hour, with benefits and paid time off.

According to the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, the average pay as an early child and education daycare worker in our state is $10.66 per hour.

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