February 21, 2024

The Pizen Switch Times

Established 2021

E.L. Wiegand Early Learning Center Will Expand Existing Early Childhood Care & Education in Yerington

Early Childhood Care and Education for our community’s youngest members and their families has been a long-term challenge.

Building Blocks Daycare and Kountry Kids Korner Daycare are both licensed in Mason Valley through the State of Nevada Childcare Licensing Agency. And both run at capacity with waiting lists due to their long-standing reputations for top-quality care of young children in the community.

Peris and Sons Farms offers early childcare services as part of their employee benefit packages.

And now, to further “expand the existing early childhood care and education in Yerington,” the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mason Valley announced the opening of the E.L Wiegand Early Learning Center planned for Fall of 2022.

 

Wayne Workman, Lyon County School District Superintendent wrote:

“Early childhood education is vital. It sets our youngest up for success in their education down the road. It gives working parents a safe and structured place for their children to spend the day. It increases the quality of life in a community.

 

Unfortunately, we don’t have nearly enough of it.

 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and we shifted to a distance learning model here in Lyon County, our preschool program was one of the first things we very unfortunately needed to cut. However, even when we could focus on getting our four- and five-year-olds in Mason Valley ready to start kindergarten, that still left out our youngest. While our school district isn’t in the business of childcare, it doesn’t take an education expert to know these two things: parents need a place for their children to spend the day while they’re at work, and the earlier a child can start learning how to talk, read, count and write, the better.

 

First, let’s focus on the workforce implications early childcare and education bring. According to Census Bureau data, the No. 2 reason parents didn’t enter the workforce last year was because they were caring for a child who was not in school or daycare. In fact, more than 30 percent of respondents in their summer survey say they left a job last year to care for a child and didn’t, or couldn’t, look for work for the same reason.

 

We have two amazing daycares in this town, but two is not enough. They’ll be the first ones to tell you the community of Mason Valley needs more as they stare at their miles-long waiting lists. When parents can’t find a place for their children to stay and don’t have a family member who can watch after them, they’re forced to stay home. A study done by the Harvard Business Review found that more than a quarter of women who became unemployed during the pandemic didn’t do so because of the pandemic at all but rather because of a lack of childcare. An additional 20 percent had to leave work frequently or reduce their hours altogether for the same reason.

 

When working parents are forced to stop working, we see much of what we have over the last year. Businesses reduce hours, slow their services or stop offering some completely and create a ripple effect across the country and multiple industries.

 

Availability can’t be discussed without also talking about affordability. According to a YouGov survey taken in May of last year, the average cost of childcare is $750 per child per month. This number balloons to almost $900 in the summer months as schools let out for breaks and the number of hours parents need help increases. Many of us have heard stories of families paying north of 30% of their annual income on childcare. That’s simply too much. Mortgages and rents are not even supposed to fall that high, let alone a safe place for kids to spend the day so their parents can support them and give them the home they deserve.

 

As children grow through infancy into toddlers and beyond, early childhood education begins to enter the conversation. There is no debating the benefits of preschool. A study published in the journal Development Psychology (and many others) confirms that children who attend preschool outperform their classmates who didn’t in language, literacy and math. Youth who attend preschool enter kindergarten with an enhanced vocabulary, better letter identification and short-term memory and the equivalent of eight more months of education and five more months of executive function skills like listening and self-control. Unfortunately, we can no longer offer that service in Lyon County, although we know just how important it is.

 

The demand for preschool here has already been proven by the Club itself. When the pandemic hit, the Club started offering a small, free program upstairs at the Club Teen Center during the summer. That small summer program turned into a year-round service, which then turned into two classes which then turned into an at-capacity program with a waiting list of its own. Clearly, the program will be a success based on the demand we already see in Mason Valley.

 

Now that we’ve established the significant challenge our community and many others face, it’s time to discuss a solution. Boys & Girls Clubs of Mason Valley has already broken ground on a facility right on Main Street in Yerington that will serve up to 50 infants through preschoolers at one time.

 

This is a building – and additional service –badly needed in our community. The 50-plus spots it will offer means 50 more families can go to work knowing their children are safe. That’s 50 more young ones that will enter kindergarten with a leg up. The best part? All 50 spots will be eligible for financial assistance, up to no fees being charged at all.

 

The building will feature an infant room, toddler room, tumbler room, preschool classrooms and two separate playgrounds. It will be a fully licensed childcare facility with a licensed preschool operated by professionally trained and certified staff. The program will be backed by decades of experience in youth care and enrichment and will undoubtedly be state-of-the-art to serve youth for years and years to come.

 

The E. L. Wiegand Early Learning Center is affordable early childhood care and education, taking head-on all three challenges we’ve talked about in this piece. But there’s one more challenge the Club, and we as a community, need to get through before it can begin serving families.

 

As with many things, the initial cost of the facility has ballooned and is now twice as much to complete as it was when the Club first secured a gift from the E. L. Wiegand Foundation in the fall of 2019 to start the project. The Club continues to fundraise through all avenues to make up the new gap, but there are two things we can do to help. We want to encourage our local community and the amazing residents who make it up to do two things to end this piece. First, support this endeavor. We don’t even mean monetarily; we just encourage people to support such a worthwhile venture. It’s tough to overstate just how big of an impact the E. L. Wiegand Early Learning Center will have on our town once it opens its doors. Second, encourage others to support it as well. This means calling your county commissioners, city councilmen, state officials, local foundations and more to let them know you support the project, and they should too.

 

Thank you for your time, and we cannot wait for this new opportunity to open its doors to our community’s youngest.”