By Erika Nichols-Frazer and Lisa Loomis
Child care is often not only expensive but also difficult to come by in The Valley, particularly infant care. Many home care and child care centers that accept infants have waiting lists. The Valley Reporter reached out to local child care providers seeking more details.
Vermont classifies day care and preschool and after-school providers in several categories. There are programs that are licensed to offer infant care, preschool care, preschool education and after-school education in larger and smaller settings. Some providers provide a combination of these things.
HOME CARE PROVIDER
In Fayston, Danielle Livingston is licensed by the state as a home care provider. She can provide care in her home for 10 total children, of whom up to two children can be infant to 2 years old, six can be full time (including the infants) and four can be school age or part-timers. Livingston said that she does prioritize local families and said she has a waiting list with eight kids on it, three of them infants, one of whom is not due to be born until November.
“Care for infants is the biggest need,” she said.
The Sugarbush Day School, Warren, serves up to 59 children, ages 6 weeks to 6 years. It does have a waiting list, which currently has 15-20 children on it. Children of Sugarbush employees are given priority, then Valley families are prioritized. Drop-in care, which is available year-round, is most popular during ski season and does draw families from outside The Valley.
The Spring Hill School, Waitsfield is a licensed nonprofit school offering preschool programming and child care for 35 children, ages 3-5 years. It is currently full with an ongoing waiting list, which a representative said was a typical length. Valley families are prioritized. There were several families on the waiting list this year who were planning on moving to The Valley from elsewhere in Vermont or out of state who were unable to do so due to lack of housing in The Valley.
The Waitsfield Children’s Center is a preschool that is licensed to serve up to 18 children per day, ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. It does have a waiting list which is broken up into three age groups and varies week to week. It serves families from The Valley and beyond. Priority is given to children in Vermont Department of Children and Families custody who need specialized care.
Neck of the Woods, Waitsfield, currently serves 74 children, ages 6 weeks old through sixth grade. The center has a waiting list of 34-50 infants to preschoolers and approximately 20 children on the waiting list for the after-school program. Priority is given to families who either live or work in The Valley.
Amanda Isham is a home care provider in Duxbury. She is licensed to have six children under school age and four of school age. Two of her under school age children can be aged 6 weeks to 2 years (infant care).
She also prioritizes local families and like many home care providers, accommodates local parents and local workers who bring their children to Duxbury while they work nearby. She has a waiting list of four to six students, mostly for infants to 2 years old.
“I think there’s a huge shortage of care slots available for the infant to 2-year-old kids. That’s the biggest thing. I currently have only one soon to be 1-year-old child but have a growing list of infant siblings on my list,” she said.
Rachel Bolduc is another home care provider in Duxbury who has an infant waiting list. She is licensed to care for up to six children of whom two can be under 2 years old and the other four are over 2 years old. She currently cares for four, offering day care and after school care. She has four infants on her waiting list and notes that it takes two years for a slot to open in this category.
VERMONT UNIVERSAL PRESCHOOL
Several years ago, Vermont passed Act 166 which provides for 10 hours of early childhood education in public schools. Any Vermont child can attend any public-school preschool program for those 10 hours of preschool education regardless of where their family lives or works.
The Moretown Elementary School is one such preschool, offering 14 hours of preschool to enrolled students. The school/district is reimbursed by the state for 10 of those 14 hours and there is no charge to parents for students to take advantage of the full 14 hours. Moretown has 36 preschoolers enrolled in three sessions of preschool, per school administrator Brenda Hartshorn. She said that many of the students attending preschool head to Neck of the Woods child care center in Waitsfield after the preschool program ends, while others are picked up by their parents.
While students in the Harwood Unified Union School District are entitled to intra-district school choice starting in kindergarten, Act 166 allows any preschooler to go to any licensed preschool as long as the school has room.
“We’ve ended up with kids from different communities because their preschools didn’t have room. Children can go to preschool where their parents work as well. Students can come here two days a week and then go to Spring Hill two days a week – but the parents will have to pay for the Spring Hill preschool because public schools get paid first under Act 166,” Hartshorn explained.