A child care center is coming to Bertha-Hewitt Schools. The 3,925 square foot space will have room for about 60 kids from 16 months to 12 years old.

With the “huge need” for child care, including for infants and toddlers, the district chose to expand their Hangout Licensed Daycare program. The current program has kids 33 months and older. District daycare coordinator Hope Hinzmann said there are more kids than spots available in the area. The need isn’t new, though parents have a hard time finding child care spots as they return to work after pandemic-related business closures.

“There’s a lot more families moving back into the district, and so the need has been getting greater,” Hinzmann said. The district’s enrollment has increased by 20% over the last five to seven years. “We keep bringing in younger and younger families and so it’s just so beneficial to have it in our school so … all their kids are together from young age till they leave this school.”

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The district has kept pace with their daycare numbers, with about 10-20 in the preschool, and will add seven toddler spots. Paraprofessionals who have completed specific training work alongside Hinzmann at the school in their one room the program has currently. The new center will have a large play area and three classrooms.

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Construction on the center started in fall 2021, though delays have set the opening to April 2022. The district is applying for an additional license to care for younger children, which takes about four to six months. While watching the construction process, Superintendent Eric Koep said, “It’s too small, but it’s as big as we can afford.”

The center is being added as a separate building on the south side of the school through federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds from the pandemic. Koep said there is not an increased cost for taxpayers. The center will be open to Bertha-Hewitt families.

“When a family is looking for a daycare or a school district, I hope people will look at Bertha-Hewitt because with our new child care facility you’ll be able to have your child on our campus for 17 years,” Koep said.

Hinzmann hopes parents have increased ease as they can drop off their children at one location. She said more schools would benefit from having such a program and she is grateful for the opportunity to provide more space.

“As a parent myself, I like knowing that my kids are in one area, so it’s one drop-off, one pick-up,” Hinzmann said. “They’re all safe together.”

Applications for spots will be available in the coming months. Rates for the new center are not yet set. Costs at the current Hangout are $2.50 an hour per child. You can follow Bertha-Hewitt Schools on Facebook or visit their website at isd786.org/ for more information.