Representatives from Neck of the Woods child care center in Waitsfield have appeared before two local select boards and been in contact with another, requesting $25,000 from each town’s ARPA funds to construct a commercial kitchen at the center.
Betsy Jondro, who is handling fundraising for Neck of the Woods (NOW), said the child care facility needs to raise $190,000 for a commercial kitchen and cafeteria which will allow NOW to bring in Head Start, a federal program that supports school readiness for children from low-income families. Head Start helps with language, literacy and social/emotional development.
Jondro pointed out that the nearest Head Start programs are in Montpelier and Barre. NOW met with the Moretown Select Board earlier this summer and reported that the board supported the idea of bringing the funding request before voters next March at Town Meeting, she noted.
Jondro and NOW board chair J.B. Weir met with the Fayston Select Board members on August 10, explaining their request for a portion of Fayston’s ARPA funds. Only two of the three members of the select board were present at that meeting and the board discussed whether the other Valley towns were on board with the request and whether other child care providers should be considered as possible recipients of ARPA funds.
NOW has been in email correspondence with Waitsfield town administrator Annie Decker-Dell’Isola about appearing before that town’s select board to make a similar request and Jondro has discussed the request informally with one member of the Warren Select Board. Waitsfield has created an ARPA Committee to assess community requests for access to funding and set priorities. Fayston plans to hold a community meeting for such requests to be heard.
NOW current serves 50 children and will be able to expand to 75 children once a new wastewater system is constructed. NOW is waiting on state permits for that project which is funded by the Mad River Valley Community Fund. After NOW purchased its current home (the former Small Dog campus), it had to construct a $150,000 public water system to allow it to serve more families.
Jondro said the wastewater system would increase NOW’s capacity to 125, but until further classrooms are renovated in the building, capacity would remain at 75.
The proposed location for the new commercial kitchen will be in a large open space on the first floor. If NOW receives $100,000 from the four towns, Jondro said the balance would be raised from the local community. Once the kitchen is completed fundraising will begin to renovate the second floor adding four to six more classrooms, bringing the building’s capacity to 125.
Families from Waitsfield make up 27% of NOWs students with 20% coming from Fayston, 11% from Waterbury and Duxbury, 8% from Warren and 10% from other communities including from Chittenden County representing families that commute into The Valley.
Like most Valley child care and after-school care facilities, NOW has a waiting list that varies from 75 to 100 children at any given time. NOW offers child care and early education for children 6 weeks old through preschool and also runs the after-school program at the Moretown Elementary School and a summer camp program for children ages 5 to14.