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Efforts to increase child care options in Nobles County continue

The Daily Globe - 10/2/2022

Sep. 30—WORTHINGTON — The hunt for affordable child care options for the parents and guardians of Nobles County continues, and progress has been made.

That's the message two representatives from Community and Economic Development Associates relayed Friday to representatives of the City of Worthington, Nobles County, District 518 and Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

"Basically, this project has three main priorities: create new slots, support existing providers and community engagement," said Joshua Schuetz, project manager with CEDA.

Thus far, CEDA has applied for $300,000 in funding through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to fund new child care startups and expansions, support current providers with expenses and start a subsidy for families struggling to afford care. They have also had a grant application event for current providers, Schuetz said, and created a task force to continue working on the child care issue.

"And the hope is that ... this can be a thing that lasts throughout the years," he said, noting that though there would be changes in the composition of the task force it could continue for an indefinite length of time, even after the project is completed.

CEDA has also created Spanish-language marketing materials for the Child Care Assistance Program and submitted an application for the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, which has since been accepted.

Schuetz and his colleague Angie Kopplow, a community and business specialist with CEDA, have also been working with the city of Rushmore on a potential pod-based child care in an existing school building.

The roof had to be fixed and asbestos tiles had to be removed, Kopplow said, and now the project is waiting on an inspection by the fire marshal.

"We have been reaching out to our smaller communities because you have a lot of small communities with resources that hadn't been leveraged — old school buildings, gyms, all kinds of things like that," Schuetz added.

They have also been working with the city of Adrian and the Adrian school district on a similar project.

District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard said that his school had lost a teacher recruit when that person couldn't find child care for an infant, emphasizing the importance of the child care initiative.

Mayor Mike Kuhle asked if any new providers had been recruited yet, and Kopplow answered that they have not heard of any yet, but that there is one who is looking to be re-licensed.

"We do want to do education campaigning that illustrates how you can become a provider," Schuetz said. "... we really do need to recruit a lot of new providers. And we can build a local pipeline, which will take time."

Kuhle asked if they had contacted local churches, and Schuetz said that several churches were interested in providing child care until they found out how much it would cost.

Nobles County Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. asked about the potential for child care during the evening and overnight hours, given JBS and other companies that have second and third shifts.

"Recruiting for that specifically, I think, is going to be a huge challenge," Schuetz said.

Landgaard also emphasized the importance of reducing the regulations or requirements for child care at the state level.

"... there's no question that if we can chip away at this (child care) issue, it will help ease the burden of the workforce shortage," Schuetz said. "Now, the workforce shortage also affects child care. That's the frustrating thing, right?"

In other news Friday, the group:

* Discussed potential changes to the Nobles Home Initiative, and how calculations are done for the program.

* Learned that the Minnesota Department of Transportation will return to do a new traffic study of the Crailsheim Road corridor on Oct. 10.

* Heard from Minnesota West President Terry Gaalswyk that while enrollment at the college is up 3.8%, it has been light in health-related careers as well as in law enforcement. However, the education program is going strong.


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