Who helps Fort Worth ISD plan for school child care?

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Fort Worth ISD is moving forward with plans to establish four early learning centers across the district in areas where affordable, high-quality child care is hard to come by after voters narrowly approved a November bond to fund the project as well as other improvements.

Three other bond measures were rejected in the same election after opposition groups lobbied against them, pointing to the district’s poor school performance and what they called limited information on obligations in the weeks leading up to the elections.

Failed proposals included Proposal B, which would have funded the renovation of middle and high school auditoriums; proposal C, which would have funded three stages; and proposal D, which would have provided funds for the renovation of gymnasiums and school grounds.

But district leaders said they were “thrilled” with the passage of the largest $ 1.2 billion A Proposal, which is expected to include major renovations to all colleges in the district, building new campuses. elementary school and a unique opportunity to meet the growing need for child care in the so called child care deserts in parts of the district.

According to a 2020 analysis of child care provider data and census data According to the At-Risk Children organization, there are fewer than five subsidized child care spaces in some areas of Fort Worth for every 100 children of working parents.

The Bond A proposal, which was passed by a margin of 57 votes after close scrutiny, sets aside $ 13,798,232 for the project, which will establish four centers across town in areas identified as lacking in early childhood education. High quality.

The district has not shared any details on the location of the campuses to date. The early learning centers are the smallest part of the connection.

Child care in Indiana schools

As child care needs crystallize across the country in the wake of pandemic-related job struggles, ISD Fort Worth is not the only district considering using childcare. existing facilities to meet the care needs of infants and toddlers.

In Syracuse, Indiana, a small town with limited childcare options, the Wawasee Community School Corporation – which looks like a school district in Texas – has started welcoming teachers’ children and children of teachers. ‘workers at a local manufacturing plant and other infants and toddlers in the community amid the pandemic.

“I call it a child care desert,” Brittany Rosenberry, who serves as the COVID leave coordinator for the district, told the Star-Telegram. “I myself had issues with childcare trying to find care when COVID hit and a lot of centers are closed and we are actually about 30 minutes from Goshen and Warsaw which are the bigger cities.”

District leaders developed the program, with the help of a grant from Early Learning Indiana and began offering infant, toddler, and pre-kindergarten programs for ages 3 to 5 at three elementary campuses in the district.

“We think the sooner you put them in a school-like setting, the better off they will be once they become kindergarten to grade 12 students,” Rosenberry told the Star-Telegram. “We want to start them early and in a very good environment so that they are safe and reliable.”

The program, which the school system plans to expand to meet the needs of teachers and staff across the county, is not income-based, although parents are entitled to needs-based scholarships.

Fort Worth Weighing Options

It’s a possible approach that officials at ISD Fort Worth have considered as they explore options for meeting early learning needs across the city.

Asked about the link in October, Schools Chief Jerry Moore said early learning options at Fort Worth ISD could include income and need-based programs, and / or programs that serve the general population. Potential programs could expand beyond past centers under the tie, Moore said at the time.

“There can be different types of early learning spaces,” he said at the time. “It might not all be income based… we are considering all kinds of ideas to support our community as well as our teachers and staff here at Fort Worth ISD who are in need of early learning spaces. . “

In Wawasee District, needs are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s not income based at all, it’s open to the community, and we’re trying to find ways that if they come and say, ‘Hey, I can’t afford that,’ we tried to sit down and come up with a plan to help them afford it, ”Rosenberry said. “Just because someone can’t afford something, we (still) want to provide this parent and child with safe and reliable education and care. “

The District of Indiana employs all teachers and paraprofessionals in classrooms, unlike Crowley ISD in North Texas, which employs child care assistants for its early childhood education programs.

ISD officials from Fort Worth visited the district during the planning of the bond proposal to see how such a program might work.

Wawasee Schools are also calling on officials from local districts in Indiana who wish to initiate similar options in their districts. Since the start of the Wawasee program, there has been broad support from the community, which has led to a waiting list and plans for expansion.

Early Head Start Approach

Another option being considered by Fort Worth ISD is a model similar to Crowley ISD, which provides support and building space for the operation of a federally funded head start program that is staffed and managed by Child Care Associates. , one of the largest child care providers in North Texas.

For Head Start programs for ages 3 and 4, schools may receive state funding, according to the Texas Education Agency, but similar funds are not eligible for infants and toddlers under applicable regulations.

Although ISD Fort Worth did not provide details on the approach they will take or where the centers will be located, Child Care Associates CEO Kara Waddell confirmed that she had met with the district. to offer support.

“We don’t have a specific memorandum of understanding, but we agreed to work together and offered to link their classroom placement decisions with the infrastructure work of the Blue Ribbon Action Committee on Child Care. children in training – to make sure we “don’t interfere with quality child care as we work to expand services to all children.” Waddell said in a statement.

The blue ribbon committee Waddell referred to, which was announced last month to “guide critical investment opportunities in child care and early childhood education for children 0-5,” is looking at solutions across the county, including involving schools in early childhood education.

Leaders call for caution

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, who sits on the committee with Arlington Mayor Jim Ross, said the collaboration gives child care providers an edge over one of the significant costs of running the business. ‘a center: construction costs.

“They don’t have bonding capacity, they can’t build the actual physical building our kids deserve to be in,” Parker told the Star Telegram. “It is possible to co-locate high quality preschool education opportunities in facilities owned by the school district. ”

Parker and Waddell said that whatever programs are implemented over the months and years to come, they should be put in place with care and attention for the existing child care infrastructure in County of Tarrant.

“If you start removing kids as young as three from this daycare, you’re going to bankrupt a very delicate model that’s already in place across our county,” Parker said.

“I think as long as the handover and transition is (implemented) in a thoughtful way between provider and kindergarten, we’re still in a good position. In this situation, in particular, we may be able to move beyond our wildest dreams, as you could create an ISD cadre (and) put the right people in place at each level of education, without disrupting the private care models.

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Isaac Windes covers early childhood education as part of Star-Telegram’s Crossroads Lab. The position is funded with assistance from the Morris Foundation. Windes is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Before coming to the Star-Telegram, he wrote about schools and colleges in Southeast Texas for the Beaumont Company. He was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Please ask your questions about early childhood education. Email: iwindes@star-telegram.com or call or text (817) 668-5449. Follow Isaac on Twitter @isaacdwindes

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