Childcare

Unless certified teachers can be found, Learn & Grow Depot will no longer take in kids from the public at the end of the year.

Help wanted!

Qualifications:

• 18 years of age or older;

• Must enjoy working with children six weeks to 12 years of age;

• Be fingerprinted and pass a Kansas Bureau of Investigation background check;

• Be tested for tuberculosis;

• Know CPR;

• Have one year of teaching experience in licensed centers or preschool;

• Oh, and the pay is just two dollars over what fast food restaurant employers are paying.

“If you know someone, send them our way,” Harold Courtois, chief executive officer of Memorial Health System, told about 45 parents who were notified last week the childcare provider Learn & Grow would no longer accept their kids at the end of the year.

“We need teachers. I don’t know where we are going to find them,” Courtois said.

Twenty families representing 25 students were sent a letter last week saying that Learn & Grow, owned and operated by Memorial Health System, will no longer accept children of non-hospital employees.

Courtois said there are currently 10 hospital employee children on a waiting list.

“Our first duty to the community is health care,” Courtois said. “We have to provide health care. If things were to fall apart there is 6 percent higher mortality rate in areas where hospitals close. We are not in danger of closing but we can’t start following steps that might lead to that. But that doesn’t have anything to do with our childcare issue. We couldn’t get help. The whole issue we have is staffing issues.”

He said an important benefit to the employees of Memorial Health is the opportunity for childcare.

“A lot of them would not be here at the hospital and that would be a huge problem for us as well,” Courtois said.

Jenny Stuck, director of Learn & Grow, said at least two but as many as three certified teachers are needed by the first of the year to keep the facility open to the public.

“We are sorry for the situation. We actually don’t want the situation but we are having trouble getting help,” Courtois said. “If we lost a teacher, we would have to close a classroom down. We thought it was better to give you notice so you can try to find childcare than to tell you one morning when you walk up that we don’t have a teacher for that classroom that day and we don’t have childcare.

“It could get snowballed where we won’t have any daycare,” he said.

Availability

One parent said he contacted 12 daycare providers and was told there were no openings.

Courtois said that a lot of people have suggested raising rates of the childcare services.

“The problem of the staffing still exists. Even if we raised the rates and had more kids, we wouldn’t be able to take them because of the staffing issues,” he said.

While Courtois said finances were not the issue, Elgin Glanzer, chief financial officer, went over the projections for 2020 as some parents asked to see them. Learn & Grow is expected to suffer a $113,756 loss.

“We are projected to lose just under $2,000 per child,” Glanzer said.

While hospital employees get a discount, the 2020 budget figures are based on those employees paying the same rate as the public, Glanzer said.

Kristy Kohman, president of the parent teacher association, said Learn & Grow has provided services for the past six years.

“These conversations that we are having right now have been the topic of discussion for over a year at our PTA meetings,” she said. “How do we as a PTA help keep the doors open? That is why we got involved as parents and had fundraisers. I’ve given hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to the center, and yet I’m still faced with having to find childcare.

“If we want the quality care that we are all accustomed to, we all have to come together and figure out a solution,” she said.

Quality care

“I don’t think the level of care is anything but excellent,” said Ted Pugh.

Courtois said wages for teachers were increased last Sunday to $11.25 per hour. However, teachers are employees of Memorial Health System and receive the same benefits which amounts to 25.5 percent of wages.

“We still have gotten no leads and we have teachers that are looking for other jobs,” Courtois said.

Hank Royer offered to write a check for $20,000 to give each of the 10 teachers another $1 per hour raise to keep the facility open to the public.

“I think everyone wants to see it work,” Royer said. “I think that the fact you just raised the salary from $8.87 to $11.25 last Sunday doesn’t really give anyone a chance to come in and consider being employed at that rate. I think you owe it to the community to give this new salary structure a chance to work.”

Royer also suggested raising costs to the parents.

“Putting the kids out and making them go to another county to find the quality of care that you provide is not fair to the kids,” he said.

Current fees at Learn & Grow are $185 a week for infants; $155 for walking to 2.5 years of age; $145 for 2.5 to 3 years old, $135 for preschool; and $24 for days out of school care.

Board members

All five members of the Memorial Health System Board of Directors were present at the meeting.

“What I can promise is, we have heard all this. We’re going to talk about it. We are going to make the best decision for the total health system because, some of you won’t like this, but what Harold started with, our primary mission here is to provide health care for our community,” said board member Tony Geiger. “Childcare is wonderful.”

Geiger mentioned Wednesday’s meeting with employees of Geary Community Hospital which has been facing financial challenges and recently had a change in management.

“There are probably going to be some questions asked, not can you keep my kids in your daycare, am I going to get my next paycheck?” Geiger said. “We do not want to have a meeting like that in our community.”

Geiger said Memorial Health System is presently not facing financial challenges.

“We are going to make the best decision,” he said. “These decisions haven’t been made lightly. We are going to talk about this but can’t make any promises.”

“I promise you that I am open to it and we will look at it,” Courtois concluded.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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