Joplin School"s Plan to Build a Preschool/Daycare center has Pri - KOAM TV 7

Joplin School"s Plan to Build a Preschool/Daycare center has Private Preschool Operators Worried

JOPLIN, MISSOURI - The Joplin school district is beginning to seek building plans for a new nine-to 14-million dollar preschool and daycare center.

     The push for more early learning can create competition for those already in the preschool business.

State law now only requires students to go to school at kindergarten age but many believe learning begins much earlier.

And the Missouri house and senate are both considering bills to reimburse districts for some students taking pre-kindergarten classes.

Preschool is already part of the Joplin school district, but it plans to double, even triple its number of students by building a preschool daycare center. That's leaving some private preschools wondering if they can compete.

Sara Hood's daughter has been coming to Kidstuff preschool and daycare for two years. Mom says she’s  traced letters and learned lots  more.

“Her little shyness she did have, she’s flourished. She’s just becoming a little person. I attribute that to the teachers here. I know how much they love and care about her,” says Sara.

But not all kids go to preschool. Joplin schools superintendent CJ Huff says, “One of the challenges we have in Joplin schools is that so many of our  children don’t come ready  for kindergarten. Less than 50 percent.”

 In fact, kindergarten teachers say they can tell the difference in those who have had early education and those who have not.

Joplin kindergarten teacher Kyleigh Garrett says, “I feel like more and more  kids each year are coming in less prepared for kindergarten.”

Preschool teaches kids letters, sounds, shapes, numbers and counting.

Garrett says, “If they know those basic foundational skills, we can just build upon that. But if we have to start over and teach them; this is a letter, this is the sound it makes, then it makes it harder  for us to get them to the level of reading we need to get them to.”

Private and public pre-school providers says it’s  also important for social skills. So the Joplin district wants to expand its preschool  program.

Joplin’s special services coordinator Amanda Boyer says, “The dream is for  us to expand our program from serving 220 students in half days sessions to 450,  eventually maybe 600 students.”

Kidstuff administrators say they've lost some kids to public schools’ preschools in Carl Junction and other districts as a matter of convenience for parents who might have other children in school. The impact would be greater if Joplin kids can go for free.”

And Boyer says in some cases that is possible.  She says, “There's some flexibility with that. It might just be a language issue. That kid may not just have the language skills yet and that would qualify them for special ed services. That is free to families. That’s a federal program.  Title One is also federally funded and we're able to screen kids through parents as teachers and make a determination based on their screening scores to give them free preschool  from Title One funding.”

Boyer says peer model students in the special ed preschool classrooms pay just fifty dollars a month. And that can create competition for private daycares like Kidstuff.

Kidstuff director Amy Ball says, “It could hurt. I also do accept Missouri state assistance.  So, um parents get assisted by the state in order to come   to help with their tuition and they pay the remaining balance. Those parents are probably going to go there. It’s gonna make sense for them. It’s gonna help them out for the month.”

Other students would have to pay to go to the public preschool and Boyer says those rates would be comparable to other private pre-schools.

Kidstuff director Amy Ball says parents who bring kids just to just preschool alone are no longer in the majority. Most of her parents take advantage of extended day care hours.

Ball says, “I have two working parents now and so parents need daycare. We happen to provide pre-school along with daycare.”

But the school district could bite into that part of her business to because it plans to add daycare services too.

Ball says, “It will make a difference.”

 Ball hopes she can compete with a teaching staff of mainly moms who nurture the little ones as they learn.  But, she says the decision, often one of cost versus quality, is ultimately up to parents.

Ball says, “And I think, if they feel comfortable coming in to a church facility like ours that has the religious aspect,  that we're also teaching them, then they're going to do that. That's just I think, the way I feel.  When children are little like this, you are very protective of where they are and who's taking care of them.”

Sara doesn’t believe there’s a need for public preschools and  says she and her daughter are  staying put at Kidstuff.

 “We've been beyond blessed with this place. They've been absolutely wonderful. No, I would not switch at all.”

 Other preschool operators  say the district could cut deep into their bottom line. And one says she will need to make tens of thousands of dollars in changes just to survive.

Typically longer hours of daycare for working parents allows private pre-schools  to compete with public schools now offering early childhood education.  But the Joplin school district’s plan to open a preschool and daycare center could offer serious competition.

Joplin school district officials say some parents aren’t sending kids to preschool because it’s just a half day. So the district plans to open its own preschool center complete with a daycare.

The Joplin school districts preschool is growing.

Special services coordinator Amanda Boyer says, “We're getting as many kids in as we can but there is currently  a waiting list and a lot of parents can't send their kid when they realized its half a day and they don't have that transportation.”

Courtney Willey found full daycare and pre-school at Exploration Station after facing that very struggle. “I had to go pick her up at head start and take her to a daycare so it was drive, take off work, take her to daycare drop her off and that was a pain.”  Willey likes the idea of a public pre-school daycare option.

 Joplin plans to build a pre-school daycare building on the old south middle school property

Boyer says, “We did a survey  of our own staff just in Joplin schools and there were over a hundred people that filled out that survey. If Joplin schools had a daycare option full day, we would use it. I think it’s really gonna. We don’t want it to be competitive. We just really want to give our families another option.”

Private pre-school  operator  Charyl Copher say its unfair competition and  she’s  being forced to change the way she does  business just  to stay open.

Copher says, “A lot  of my students here are teachers children. Probably 50 percent of the students here in our facility are students whose parents work with the Joplin school district. So yea, its gonna have a dramatic effect on us.”

Even  customers pleased with  Exploration Station like the idea of public pre-school with daycare.

Jennie Carr here to pick up her grandson says, “Especially if they’re gonna teach them stuff.  They have to know a lot when they go to kindergarten. My grandson’s learned that here, but some daycares they don't learn that.”

Brad Antle who has a two year old at Exploration Station says, “Price is a big factor. Child care is very expensive and so most generally, people will go for the cheaper option.”

Copher says even if Joplin charges comparable rates for pre-school and daycare, “It’s still hard for us to compete cause they are still federally and government funded. So they are going to get a big kick back form not only meal programs, but like I said Title One.”  Title One is federal money for children who need educational interventions and can completely pay for pre-school.

District officials say parents would have to pay for the daycare. Boyer says, “That would be a at cost to parents. We would love to be able to open that up to our students 3 to 5 years old, employees with the district and slowly
move that down, when we see it can operate on its own, down to 2 year olds, to one year olds and eventually infants.”

The superintendent says it’s an issue of supply and demand.

Prior to the storm we had 67 licensed day cares. After the storm, as of today we have 30 and that's a critical piece of the community.”

But "Child Care Aware" which documented services during and after the storm says the number of providers now is actually 56.

Charyl says her classes are not at capacity and don't have waiting lists.

Copher says, “I have many classes that aren’t full. I have, like I can hold,  at one time I had 85 children part- time, full-time combined. Now I’m running around twenty-seven or twenty-eight.

Webb City schools superintendent says the district has waiting lists for its pre-schools but only has sixteen daycare slots and those go to teen moms first. Rossetti  says “I think we have to be very careful about, as a government entity, is also the private sector that delivers quality preschool around us and being a competitor in that. We definitely don’t want to put people out of business.  That’s their livelihood." 

A new Joplin school board member agrees.

Board member Debbie Fort says, “I do think we need to make sure we are working well with the community to make sure we're not doing harm to anyone’s business. We would never want to do that.”

Most of the afternoon kids at Exploration Station are 4 to 5 years old but Charyl expects that number to drop. And she's going to convert an entire room to an infant center so her business can survive.

Copher says, “We're looking at least, just one room probably,  20- thousand dollars. And then we will have to add staff and train them.”

Charyl believes the key will be making spaces for babies and she’s banking on parents bringing  all their children to one place.

But the school district's plan could compete with that too if and when district daycare covers all ages. 

If you want to see the survey about preschool needs done by the district,
click here
http://ftpcontent2.worldnow.com/koam/docs/Market Research - Child Care Survey{dot}pdf

To see the most recent Child Care Aware report about available preschool and child care, click here
http://ftpcontent2.worldnow.com/koam/docs/Joplin Data Sheet updated 5-31-13.pdf <http://ftpcontent2.worldnow.com/koam/docs/Joplin%20Data%20Sheet%20updated%205-31-13.pdf>

Also here are links to the recent  house bill click herehttp://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills141/billpdf/intro/HB1689I.PDF and senate bill  
Http://legiscan.com/MO/bill/SB538/2014 promoting subsidizing public preschool.. Right now, those hinge on the Missouri school formula being fully funded.

In comparison, the Springfield school district is using grant money to partner with private preschools to place students currently on waiting lists there. The partnership pays certain salaries at the privately run preschool.

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