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Hundreds of child care spots created in Eastern Iowa with state grant
Vinton-Shellsburg schools, TrueNorth, West Liberty Foods among recipients of $26.6 million in state funding
A state grant is paving the way for the creation of an early learning center in the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District to provide before- and after-school care to preschool students.
The school district was awarded $1.5 million to build an early learning center at Tilford Elementary School, 308 E. 13th St. in Vinton. The center — named the Tiny Vikes Early Learning Center — will house a 3- and 4-year-old half-day preschool program and child care for those students from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
This project will expand the current before- and after-school program for children kindergarten through fourth grade and add 52 child care slots to the area.
Vinton-Shellsburg Superintendent Kyle Koeppen said the goal is to build enough space for everyone who needs child care services in the area.
“If we want to keep attracting younger families, we need to make sure we’re providing these amenities. We know it’s an essential feature a lot of families look for, and we’re working hard to provide it,” he said.
Even some of the district’s own teachers send their preschool-age children to other school districts because of the built-in child care services, Koepper said. A child care center at one of the district’s preschool programs will eliminate transportation barriers some families face.
The project is among 23 statewide selected to receive grants totaling $26.6 million in state funding.
The vast majority of the grant funding will go toward infrastructure projects, while a small portion will support agreements between child care centers and businesses to create new child care slots.
According to the state, the grants will impact 67 employers and create more than 1,700 child care slots.
“Iowa businesses know that access to quality child care is a major factor in employees’ ability to work,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a news release. “These awards will support and incentivize employer investment in child care resources on site or through community partnerships and strengthen our efforts to provide high quality child care throughout the state of Iowa.”
The state’s Child Care Business Incentive Grant was created this year. It was one of the recommendations made in a state task force report.
“Not only do (the grants) help employers create or expand child care for existing workers, but they also enhance their ability to be successful in attracting and retaining new employees,” Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said in a news release. “Our focus moving forward must remain on addressing these specific types of barriers to provide options for families and create an environment where the local workforce can thrive.”
TrueNorth Companies in Cedar Rapids also is a recipient of the grant. It was awarded almost $2.8 million to create a child care center for its employees in Cedar Rapids. TrueNorth is partnering with Kids Point early learning center in Cedar Rapids to manage the program, which will add 100 new child care slots to the area.
“At the heart of it is knowing when our colleagues are feeling secure and confident in their child care, they can be activated and engaged wholehearted colleagues with us,” said Mallory Mohwinkle, director of creative at TrueNorth.
There are over 200 TrueNorth employees in the Cedar Rapids area and 500 nationwide, Mohwinkle said. "TrueNorth leadership is committed to our colleagues and families and the future of our organization and community,“ she said. ”We’re appreciative of the funding being made available.“
To The Rescue, a home health care service in Cedar Rapids, was awarded $2.5 million to create 100 new child care slots. The nonprofit is planning to build a child care facility in Cedar Rapids to serve children who live in Linn County.
West Liberty Foods in West Liberty received a $750,000 grant through the program, which it is matching, partnering with West Liberty Child Care Center to double its capacity to 96 children. Up to 40 slots will be reserved for West Liberty Foods employees.
Brian Melhus, with West Liberty Foods, said child care is one of the primary needs of their workforce.
“We’re very thankful the state recognizes this as a need for employers,” Melhus said. “There are about 900 West Liberty Foods employees in a town of 4,000 with only one state-licensed early child care facility. The need for child care is great, and we certainly look forward to expanding.”
The state said it plans to award a second round of child care grant funding. Applications are being accepted at iowagrants.gov, and are due by Oct. 17.
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