Randolph Daycare is debated

RANDOLPH —  Randolph Public School board members met Feb. 20 with an estimated audience of several dozen community members.

The meeting was conducted in the commons area due to the large number of people attending to discuss the school daycare project.

“If the school does the daycare, it will be a learning center and it is going to be done right,’’ said Board Member Jim Scott.

Supt. Jeff Hoesing said the board is at an advantage with the ability to do this daycare project because the board has planned for it and built in funding in expectation of what the project might require. The school received a $2,000 donation from Pepsi.

“We have built up for unforeseen emergencies,’’ Hoesing said. “The main factor to consider will be how many infants and toddlers will be involved.’’

“I attended a state legislature meeting and listened to Gov. Ricketts,’’ audience member Dan Backer said. “He was hard-pressed at the meeting and talked about more school funding coming from income tax and other taxes.’’

Staffing costs for the daycare program would have to probably include two certified teachers and two paras for around $225,000. Certified staff would fall under the negotiated agreement with regard to base pay and days outside the 172-day contract. This would be enough staff for eight babies and 12 toddlers (18 months to 3 years). Children can have a max group size of 20. If the school attracts more babies or toddlers, then more teachers will need to be hired. Some of the cost would be offset by parent fees.

Randolph was not affected by the Affordable Care Act mandates until the daycare project. This would make the school a larger employer and determine that the school must offer insurance to office staff and hot lunch staff.

“It is anyone’s guess how the ACA guidelines might change within the next year. Despite the costs, we need to accomplish this project for the low-income families and those eligible for HHS reimbursement,’’  Hoesing said.

“I believe when things play out with the project. People in the communities and churches will help with the renovation for the daycare,’’ said Schmit.

If the program is full, the board estimates parent fees paid to the school will be around $100,000.

“The daycare is a service that we need to provide. We will just need to put some funds toward it and if the community could come up with $50,000 that would help our effort,’’ Hoesing said. “We don’t want to create a daycare for the affluent.’’

Audience members addressed the board, suggesting that contractors and citizens within the town could step up to provide help for this project with fundraisers and other projects to help take some burden off the school. Most of the audience comments offered support for the project.

“We need to give and take everywhere. The daycare project is one of the things that keeps couples here because of amenities like this, the golf course and other services that people use. This project will have certified teachers and our children should be more prepared for school. This will be a learning center and thank you to the board for taking on this project,’’ several audience members said.

“I don’t know of any daycares that have closed because they are not making money,’’ said audience member Maggie Korth. “If someone owns an acreage or land, taxes are taxes.’’

“We have to remember the question of why should a bachelor farmer pay for services for other people’s kids,’’ Hoesing said. “I would encourage everyone to come to budget meetings to see the challenge before the school board.’’

“People need to realize that their 2-year-old children may attend this program, but 5-year-old children will have to go elsewhere,’’ said Sandy Owens, Board Member.

“We also have the risk of local daycare businesses being run out of business and then what,’’ said Lisa Linville, Board Member. “There are so many ifs. I am not saying that I am on-board and I am not saying that I am off-board with this project.’’

Estimated renovation costs for the project are $20,000 for room renovations, $30,000 for HVAC upgrades and $5,000 for plumbing.  New windows are not included in that figure. Windows will have to accommodate a fire department rescuer in full gear, according to the fire marshall.

Cost of equipping the daycare would be approximately $5,000 for cribs, cots, furniture, toys, blankets and dishware, as researched by Principal Mary Miller.

The school would contract with the school’s hot lunch program for meals on the days that school is in session. When school is not in session, the nursing home or the senior center may be contracted for meals.

“The school should have the right to charge more because of the quality of the program,’’ an audience member said.

Matt Nordhues said. “This project will probably make an ugly budget for the school board. What has the board been looking into to cover this project.’’

“We enjoy a low levy,’’ Hoesing said. “Randolph has been ninth and 14th in ranking among 20 schools within our area.’’

“All the community churches talked like they would contribute,’’ said Paul Schmit board president.

Board member Loren Haselhorst asked if teachers would be willing to take on the job of this type of babysitting position teaching.

“Whatever we do in hiring teachers for this project we need to do it legally.’’ said Jeff Hoesing, Superintendent.

“I believe there are people out there who would love to take on this school daycare project as teachers for the children,’’ said Elementary Principal Mary Miller.

“One of the comments on our survey for the daycare was it would be great to have a place that would be open every day,” Hoesing said.

Twenty of 60 surveys were returned. Four families indicated they are not interested. Three families are interested in three-year old a only.