Chequamegon School District Administrator Mark Weddig told the school board last week he believes it is in the district’s best interest to consider the pressing need for daycare services.
He said that the district’s operations committee has brought it to his attention that some children are being left with caregivers that are not providing appropriate care.
The underlying consideration for school-based childcare is that 52% of the Chequamegon students are on free or reduced lunch rates. That statistic can signal a need for early intervention and support for families.
A recent needs assessment was conducted in March and Weddig said that only 4% of respondents felt there was adequate daycare in the district.
There were 20 respondents who had children age newborn to 24 months requiring daycare five days a week.
Weddig’s report included this commentary from a single mom in the county.
“Many single moms in my area have told me that it is very difficult to find affordable child care in this county and from where I live in Glidden, I have researched a 50-mile radius without finding low-cost child care. Many moms in this area will make less than $10 an hour and can’t afford child-care when they have more than one child. This makes it almost impossible to secure employment and provide for their children.”
She went on to report that childcare costs $100 a day for two children and families have to choose between work or homelessness and poverty.
“They have also left their children with unsuitable care which includes elderly people with dementia, or an adult who has a known addiction, sexual abuse record, or violent temper.”
Weddig said that more schools are starting to offer affordable daycare to help lift these families out of poverty.
“I am asking you as a board if you want me to go forward looking for some answers to this important need,” he said.
The board voted unanimously to direct Weddig to investigate the possibility of opening a school-based daycare for toddlers. He noted that the buildings do not offer a good vacant space for infants.
Weddig noted that the daycare might help build loyalty to Chequamegon schools, which could mean fewer students who are registering to go out of the district to another school, resulting in subsequent loss of state aid.
The list of students enrolling out of the district is growing and the daycare center might be just the magnet to keep more students in this district, he said.
The first steps would be to get more concrete budget numbers and hold listening sessions in the community.
Weddig’s hope is that a daycare could be ready to be offered by the fall of 2019.
Looking ahead to summer school, preliminary registration numbers look very positive, he said.
“We have more students registered than in the past, more classes offered, and the sessions will run more days,” he told the board. All of which will have a positive impact on state funding.
High School Principal Tim Kief worked with the safety committee and Darlene Carl to create movable placards that fit on walls next to every door in the district. The placards provide emergency information for the students and may be used to cover the windows in the doors in the case of an armed intruder.
Weddig said his recent observation of an Armed Intruder Drills for the high school and the elementary school demonstrated to him that students are safer and better prepared than they have ever been.
“They are far safer with the new fantastic communication plan and they are working well with local law enforcement,” he added.
Kief said it takes between three and seven minutes to have law enforcement on the scene.
He said that they are still working on a plan to designate safe places for students to be reunited with their parents or guardians.
Glidden Principal Kacey Hanson said the drill worked well at that campus and that the component of evacuation was an important element. Areas to focus on were noted as door alarms and the use of alternative doors. The staff worked with the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department.