By Melinda Munson
The Skagway Borough Assembly unanimously passed Resolution 22-15R on June 2, earmarking $200,000 in subsidies for two licensed childcare start-ups in Skagway.
The funding comes amid a child care crisis in Skagway that Assemblymember Reba Hylton, sponsor of the resolution, said has been a chronic issue.
“When I first found out I was pregnant 10 years ago, before I told my own mother, I went to Grandma Linda and secured my spot to get childcare, because I knew that I could not make it in this community without her help,” Hylton said.
With the closing of Mighty Munchkins Daycare earlier this year, Skagway is left with Linda Calver’s year-round service, Little Cherubs Daycare, and seasonal providers Little Buck-a-roo Daycare and Little Dippers Learning Center.
Little Dippers, which leases a municipal-owned building, is not associated with the borough and is managed by Skagway Child Care Council. The center opened early this season to serve the children who formerly attended Mighty Munchkins. Due to staff shortages, the facility is open limited hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the time of deadline.
“I don’t think I need to spell out why those hours of operation simply do not work for most working people. Six hours a day, four days a week is just not enough,” said parent Anna Nelson.
“…No blame passed whatsoever. I am just saying that it is not enough,” she said.
Residents worry what will happen in the fall when Little Dippers and Little Buck-a-roo shut their doors for the year.
And many wonder when Calver, otherwise known as Grandma Linda, will retire. She has been in the business long enough to have babysat some of her client’s parents.
“I have heard that I am quitting, but I’m not quitting for probably a couple more years. But I have heard that rumor. Even my grandson said that to me yesterday,” she joked.
At the May 11 Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) meeting, Borough Manager Brad Ryan asked Skagway Childcare Council President Kaitlyn Jared if Little Dippers would extend its hours and services if the municipality gave them funding, citing $100,000 as an example for discussion purposes.
“What we don’t want to do is take a bunch of money, pay people higher wages, then not be able to maintain that,” Jared said.
“How would it look if Dippers had deeper pockets and someone left their job to come to us?” she added.
Jared said the child care council hasn’t been made an official offer and “we haven’t refused or declined anything. We’re still processing it.”
Resolution 22-15R, meant to expand the number of year-round childcare providers in town, would give $100,000 each to two newly licensed daycares with a minimum of 10 children enrolled monthly, operating 11 months out of the year. The facilities would receive $40,00 the first year and $20,000 the next three years.
A second resolution, 22-16R, also proposed by Hylton, was tabled and sent to the Finance Committee for review. If passed, the legislation would provide stipends for licensed daycare facilities open a minimum of five consecutive months per year. Each child four or under would qualify the center for $300 per month and each child five and older would qualify the center for $250 per month.
Calver told HEW the additional funds would go towards hiring more staff to increase capacity and covering operating costs.
Hylton said she’s proud of the legislation and hopes it makes life easier for Skagway parents.
“In addition to the amount of families that are already leaving Skagway, this childcare crisis is now at a boiling point, and it will be the main reason that more will go. I hope ours isn’t included in that. But I don’t know at this point. It is getting extremely hard to raise a family here,” Nelson said.