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Two Grants Will Help Ease Lack Of Preschool In Rolla And Waynesville

Jonathan Ahl
St. Louis Public Radio
This Missouri University of Science and Technology-owned building on Elm Street in Rolla will become home to a campus run-child care center, thanks to a grant from the state.

ROLLA — Most of Phelps and Pulaski counties qualify as “child care deserts,” where the supply of day care and preschool does not meet the needs of the communities, according to the Center for American Progress.

But now, two education institutions are receiving grant money to help address those shortages.

Missouri University of Science and Technology is receiving a $2.7 million grant from the state to construct and begin operating a child care center on campus.

“Surveys and working groups of women on campus have consistently said the lack of child care on campus and in the community is one of the biggest problems of working at Missouri S&T,” said Kathy Northcut, interim vice-provost of academic support.

The plans are to take a year to remodel an existing 7,000-square-foot building on the edge of campus and turn it into a child care center that can hold 76 children, ages 6 weeks to 5 years old.

Nearly a third of the spots will be reserved for low- income families, especially S&T students. Faculty and staff will get priority for the remaining spots before they are open to the public.

“Missouri S&T only has 21% female faculty. So we see this as a huge boon in diversifying the faculty and improving equity among our workforce,” Northcut said.

The center is also allowing S&T to add an early childhood education degree to its curriculum. Students will work at the center under the supervision of full- time professional staff.

The Waynesville public school system is also getting a grant to help address preschool needs. The Department of Defense awarded almost $700,000 to the district to launch two new preschool classes and serve about 40 children.

The intent is to give more educational options to families at nearby Fort Leonard Wood.

Brain Henry, superintendent of the Waynesville School District, which operates schools both on and off the base, said there is a huge need in the area for more early childhood education.

“We need to continue expanding these things. But this is a great opportunity to cost share with the Department of Defense and start this process of expanding early childhood opportunities for our kids,” Henry said.

However, he cautioned that the two new classes will only make a dent in the demand.

“Our waiting list to get into a preschool class is over 200 every year,” Henry said.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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