In the community

TVCC eyes joint effort to bolster child care options in community

ONTARIO – Treasure Valley Community College and an Ontario nonprofit are considering establishing a child care education lab that would also provide daycare for the community.

An education lab would both train new daycare workers while providing additional child care for the community. The students would engage the children in activities under the supervision of an early education college professor.

While the talks around creating the program are currently aspirational, Abby Lee, the college’s vice president of communications, said it is an “exciting idea” that the college has been discussing with Giggles & Grace, a nonprofit early learning child care provider in Ontario.

Shawn Reynolds, Giggles & Grace executive director, said to make the child care learning lab and daycare a reality, the college and the nonprofit would likely need to start with getting a federally-funded grant and then arranging other funding.

Reynolds said one of the biggest challenges would be for Giggles & Grace to find a property for the childcare lab.  He said during a meeting at the college last month with Dana Young, TVCC president, they discussed that the college is on swamp land, which could complicate building. Also, he said, prevailing wages, a minimum pay rate with benefits, must be paid to construction workers on the project.

He said it might be better for the college and the nonprofit to find a location near the campus. But, he said, once they have the land, it would just be a matter of matching funds.

Reynolds estimated the cost to be around $1.5 million to fund the building.

Meantime, Reynolds said the early learning care workforce is growing because of the Preschool Promise, state funding funneled through the state Early Learning Division, an offshoot of the Oregon Department of Education.  The state now provides funding for a certain number of children from low-income families.

Reynolds said Preschool Promise had increased the demand for child care in the county and created a need for more workers. 

He said the county’s labor pool for child care providers looks better than before too.  Before Preschool Promise came into Malheur County and neighboring counties, child care did not pay a livable wage. He said the county is seeing more child care centers and private providers opening. Teaching staff can make between $18 and $25 per hour, depending on their experience.

In order to be qualified to teach preschool, Reynolds said, one has to pass a background check and have either an associate’s degree or a child development associate. Those who do not have a degree can go through a program that takes up to a year to earn a certificate.

In the past, Giggles & Grace has provided TVCC students with kids who are working on a daycare worker certification paid tuition, a paid internship and paid for half of their child care costs. A version of that program on TVCC’s campus or at a location nearby would be a “winning situation” for students with kids looking to earn a daycare worker certification.

“You could potentially develop a career and get paid to work with your kid every day,” Reynolds said. “That’s a winning situation.”

For now, Reynolds said the aim is to continue discussions with TVCC and maintain the “strategic partnership.”

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