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SLO County agencies team up on child care study 

A growing coalition of public agencies in San Luis Obispo County is forming to take on the local child care crisis.

Together, they're spearheading a regional study that will aim to "research and provide recommendations to build capacity for child care options," according to a Sept. 3 San Luis Coastal Unified School District (SLCUSD) board staff report.

click to enlarge LACK OF CARE More than 250 San Luis Coastal Unified School District students are stuck on waitlists for child care services. A coalition of local schools and municipalities is commissioning a new study that will look at solutions to the countywide crunch. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • LACK OF CARE More than 250 San Luis Coastal Unified School District students are stuck on waitlists for child care services. A coalition of local schools and municipalities is commissioning a new study that will look at solutions to the countywide crunch.

"As demonstrated by the long waitlists for after-school child care and local preschools, San Luis Coastal would like to take intentional actions toward a potential resolution," the staff report stated.

More than 250 district students (transitional kindergarten through sixth grade) are stuck on wait lists to enroll in before- and after-school child care programs at school sites.

"In the past few years, numbers have continued to escalate, most notably at Hawthorne and CL Smith [elementary schools]," the report stated.

The study—whose partners include SLCUSD, the city of SLO, SLO County, the Community Action Partnership of SLO County, and First 5 SLO County—will focus on opportunities to collaborate on child care solutions; new public policies that could improve the availability of child care; facility needs; and the challenges related to the recruitment and retention of child care workers.

The SLCUSD board voted unanimously to approve its participation on Sept. 3, kicking in $20,000 for the study. The SLO City Council approved an equal share of funds at its Oct. 22 meeting.

Wendy Wendt, executive director of First 5 SLO County, told New Times that the countywide collaboration came out of a series of recent community discussions about the lack of affordable and accessible child care. In May, the organization hosted a town hall meeting titled Where's the Care?

"It is an effort that's gaining momentum," Wendt said. "For the people who work within our boundaries, families who live within our borders, what are the levers that we can pull or the policies we can put in place to unlock more capacity for affordable child care?"

Wendt said that while the study's scope is still under discussion, it will likely include a review of what other California counties have done to address their child care shortages.

"We know there's cool stuff going on out there, and we want to raise our own expectations of what's possible here in SLO County," she said.

As the five current partners firm up their commitments, First 5 SLO County hopes other local cities and agencies will get involved.

"We want to invite others to participate in this," Wendt said. Δ

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