Child care door may have opened

The idea of a child care center in the soon-to-be-vacant Dunkirk School 4 is an interesting idea.

Child care is a need throughout Chautauqua County, but particularly in Dunkirk, which currently doesn’t have a large-scale day care provider. Beth Starks, now director of Jamestown Community College’s Career Advantage program and North County Extension Center in Dunkirk and formerly head of early childhood education at Jamestown Community College, recently discussed the School 4 proposal with the Dunkirk Board of Education.

Starks said there are no licensed child care centers in the city, but three family homes are licensed to do on-site care for up to five children a day, while two others are classified as “group homes,” meaning they can care for up to 10 kids a day. Head Start and Early Head Start are also options but only very low-income families are eligible for those, she added.

Adding to the mix of child care options available in the north county may help workers struggling to re-enter the workforce. Many parents have had to either change their schedules or leave the workforce because they don’t have a viable option to care for their children while they work. Child care can cost anywhere from $390 to $760 a month, and that’s for parents who can find day care in their area.

Access to child care has been an issue in Chautauqua County long before COVID-19 became a household word, but the closure of schools in March 2020 and the use of remote learning by many area school districts in 2020 and 2021 underscore just how big an issue child care is in Chautauqua County.

That’s why Starks’ idea for School 4 deserves to be fleshed out further, maybe with a combination of agencies including the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Chautauqua County. We’re not saying build a new child care center in Dunkirk yet. More information is needed. But the idea certainly should be discussed further and a decision made one way or another before the billions in COVID-19 stimulus money earmarked for child care is spent.


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