The City of St, John has agreed to contribute $65,000 to the Child Care Committee to bring in a modular classroom building that would allow for two daycares to operate out of it. This is enough to secure the building, but more is needed to carry out the project.
After forming the Stafford County Child Care Committee in August 2021 and after several months of work, the Committee has developed a plan to open more daycare facilities in the county. The Committee conducted a county-wide child care needs assessment in September and October 2021 to help understand the true daycare needs of Stafford County families. Stafford County is at a true tipping point, if families cannot find adequate and safe child care, they will relocate. If they relocate, there will be less people to employ within Stafford County to keep businesses running.
The lack of availability and access to child care is negatively impacting the community according to over 94% of respondents on the Stafford County Child Care Needs Assessment.
The latest action report from Kansas Power Up & Go stated “the lack of quality child care is keeping young people in rural Kansas from taking jobs or even having kids – and maybe pushing them away from rural Kansas. This is not just an issue for parents, but for an entire community. It undermines economic development efforts that focus on job growth and when combined with housing shortages, it compromises the viability and appeal of rural life.”
Here are some of the key learnings from the county-wide Child Care Needs Assessment conducted last fall:
- 70 – 100 children in the county need child care; meaning Stafford County could support 6 – 7 more daycares.
- The biggest concentration of need is in St. John (70%).
- 40% of the need is for children 18 months and younger.
- More than 70% of respondents would be able to return to work or extend their working hours which would increase household income by $30,000 a year or more.
- The 5 most challenging needs related to child care are location, reliability, finding infant care, quality, and dependability.
According to Child Care Aware of Kansas, there were eight licensed daycares in Stafford County in 2019 and that dropped to five in 2021. Currently, there are three licensed daycares in Stafford and two in St. John. In each of the communities, there are also some unlicensed individuals who watch children because the demand for care is so great.
While the overall need for child care is great enough to warrant a center, it doesn’t make the most fiscal sense given the large price tag, stricter compliance measures, and having to limit infant spots so it will cashflow. The Committee’s goal is to provide an equally stable model that better meets our current and future needs.
Finding locations has been the biggest barrier to establishing more daycares in Stafford County. There are a number of people interested in becoming a daycare provider, but they would prefer not to run the daycare out of their home; there are no other locations readily available. The Child Care Committee would like to provide furnished locations that providers can rent to operate out of as in-home style daycares. By investing in the infrastructure, we will be able to provide sustainability by easily cycling in a new provider when one decides to stop operating. This will provide continuity, reduce the barrier of entry for providers, and offer the desired home-work separation.
The daycare situation in the City of Stafford seems to be stable at this time. One of the providers has even had a couple of openings in recent months. Based on the needs assessment, it shows that Stafford could support another daycare. We are currently talking with a business about the possibility of having a daycare operate out of part of their space. There also may be an opportunity to add a daycare space in the proposed new fair building.
St. John is in desperate need of more daycares and could readily support 4-5 new daycares. The school district is working to open one by August which would give preference to teachers and staff. The Child Care Committee is also working with a church to operate a daycare out of their facility, but this will take more long-term planning with the church. After looking at some existing spaces, the Committee feels bringing in a modular classroom building that would have space for two new daycares would be the most cost-effective way to meet the current need. Edwards County has done something similar, so it should be a smooth licensing process with KDHE.
Macksville currently has no licensed daycares available and would greatly benefit from having a licensed provider. The best option, at this time, would be purchasing an available building on Main Street (that needs minimal work) for a licensed daycare business to operate out of.
The Child Care Committee has done some preliminary fundraising and raised $5,000. There are very few grants available to apply for at this time. Child care is a community issue which is why we are asking the cities and county for funding to establish more daycare locations.
The Current Project
The total cost to bring in a modular classroom building that would allow for two daycares to operate out of it is about $124,000. The exact location is still being determined. The modular classroom building costs $65,000. Additional costs include site work, concrete footings, skirting, an ADA ramp/decking, utility hookups, fencing off an outdoor play area, and building modifications like adding sinks for food prep, hardwired smoke detectors, and new flooring.
The Committee is currently accepting monetary and in-kind donations to establish this location for two daycares. Stafford County Economic Development is acting as the fiscal sponsor which allows donations to be tax-deductible. The Committee will have control of the funds and determine how best to use them.
Please make checks payable to “Stafford County Economic Development” and write in the memo “Child Care Committee.” Donations can be mailed to PO Box 233, St. John KS 67576, or dropped off at 311 N. Broadway in St. John (either inside during business hours or anytime in the silver drop box on the north end of the building).
The Stafford County Child Care Committee is a joint effort between 21 Central Extension District, St. John-Hudson USD 350, Stafford County Economic Development, and community members to help provide funding and resources to both existing and new licensed childcare providers in our community. Current committee members include Kyle Bunker, Jamie Crawford, Amy Collins, Beth Cornwall, Trisha Greene, Josh Meyer, Kathleen Norman, Falon Runnebaum, Jake Russell, and Shannon Snyder. If you are interested in being a part of the committee email firstname.lastname@example.org.