Officials discuss childcare options

MARQUETTE — Socialization in a preschool or day care program is an important part of a child’s overall education, said Deb Dupras, director of the Great Start to Quality, a regional resource for parents and child care providers.

There are 33 facilities that provide early childhood education nearby or in the city of Marquette. Of those, 15 are Head Start programs, seven are in the Great Start Readiness Program and 11 are stand-alone providers — one of them is St. Christopher’s Preschool in Marquette Township, which is slated to close at the end of this school year.

“One of the things that is concerning for a center director’s perspective is licensing ratios,” Dupras said, which is the amount of caregivers required to provide care for a certain number of children.

“They have to look at those ratios, qualified staff, economics, and being able to pay a livable wage,” she explained.

One option that may help fill the void for some families is the Head Start program, but parents should not consider it full-time child care.

“We are strictly a preschool program. We don’t offer child care,” said Corey Holcomb, Early Childhood Education director for Community Action Alger-Marquette.

“We are only open four days per week for certain hours,” she said.

Holcomb said Head Start is focused on children from lower socioeconomic levels, but that doesn’t mean those are the only children enrolled in the programs.

“We have a small number of openings for over-income families,” Holcomb said. “We are limited to 10 percent in the program that could be over the income guidelines.”

She said community preschool screenings are already taking place and parents are encouraged to have their children screened, if only to see where they are developmentally.

Holcomb, who is also part of a regional school readiness committee, said it is important to enroll children in a preschool setting.

“We are encouraging parents to look at what options are available to the community and getting those experiences,” Holcomb said.

Parents can call CAAM at 906-228-6522 and press the option for Early Childhood Education to make an appointment.

Carmen Albert, director of Redeemer Lutheran Church’s preschool, said there is currently a waiting list for the school’s summer program, but slots may still be available in their fall program.

“Both our summer child care, and our S.O.S. (School’s Out Summer program) are both are on a waiting-list basis,” Albert said.

“We’ve always been a popular program and for summer we always have a waiting list,” she said.

She said the school has fielded more inquiries since St. Christopher’s announced its closing.

“Certainly, I would think that (in terms of) summer care, parents in that age group might have more of a problem finding child care,” Albert said. “With the closure of St. Christopher’s there is always room for more options for parents.”

Dupras said that the void could be partially filled by over 30 licensed home care providers in the area.

“We have some really great home programs, so don’t discount them when you are looking for care,” she said. “I think there is a perception that when you are in a center-based program you are safer. Across Marquette County we have some really great home providers — they are also licensed. Ask a lot of questions and spend some time in those programs before you commit.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.