La Crosse County Board to hold off on neighborhood childcare model

LA CROSSE (WKBT) – The La Crosse County Board voted 16-13 to hold off on the neighborhood child care model for the next 30 days. While families are struggling nationwide to find childcare, one local group says opening more child care centers is not the answer.

Child care can be difficult to find, especially for those in rural communities.

“Many of them are driving 40 miles one way for child care, some even further,” said Dennis Jacobsen, who represents the 25th District on the board.

Coulee Region Childcare Administrators opposed the La Crosse County Board’s plan to create a neighborhood child care model in La Crosse.

“Where we need these child care deserts is other schools that are located in La Crosse county – which is what the county funding should be going to,” said Sherry Picha, co-owner of Sprouts Childcare and a member of the Coulee Region Childcare Administrators.

In partnership with the School District of La Crosse, the La Crosse County Board would have spent $700,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds to open two child care centers. Each would have 15 seats for the public and 15 seats for school district employees.

“It does nothing for the other 85% of the county which we call a child care desert,” Jacobsen said.

Coulee Region Childcare Administrators say the plan would harm local child care businesses by taking away staff members.

“If you open up more in a different area, that’s going to be removing staffing which will then, in turn, have the potential of closing down other daycare centers,” Picha said.

Picha believes ARPA fund should be used to train and hire more child care workers.

“First layer is fixing the staffing and increasing that pipeline,” she said.

Jacobsen says until the board can find a solution, the issue will continue to be deferred.

“It’s like we don’t know what to do, so we’ll wait a month. So I think listening to the child care providers will help us make a sensible decision,” he said.

Currently, La Crosse County has 400 open slots in child care centers, but they cannot be filled until the staffing shortage is solved. Pica says it does not make sense to create more slots when centers are already struggling to fill the ones they do have.