Solon Springs School Board boosts pay for child care employees

Eagles' Nest Childcare Center currently serves 18 children and has a waiting list of 10.

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SOLON SPRINGS — The Solon Springs school board voted Monday, March 21, to boost pay for employees at its school-run child care center in the wake of staff shortages and a growing waiting list of children.

A collaborative effort by the community, the center is housed in a former church.

Hourly wages will go up to $15 per hour for lead teachers, $12 per hour for assistants through June 2023.

Board members also approved giving child care director Alana Hill the authority to schedule staff for overtime hours as needed. The district will also develop a plan to provide free child care education for employees and consider a sliding bonus in the future.

The district launched Eagles' Nest Childcare Center, a collaborative effort with the nonprofit organization Solon Springs Forward, in January. The center currently has 18 children enrolled with 10 on a waiting list and a number of babies slated to attend in June. Hill said with only four staff members — two full-time, two part-time — they cannot take any of those children. She did not foresee being able to hire any more staff at the current rate of $10 per hour for assistants.

“There is a societal need for child care,” said board Clerk Ryan Smith, and it has grown over the past few years. “We’ve stepped into the void to take care of the problem at a precarious time. I think it’s important.”


But, he asked, does the cost of child care threaten the core mission of the district, which is to provide K-12 education? The funding for Eagles' Nest does not come out of the general fund, he was told, and it brings many benefits to both the district and community.

“It’s an investment,” said Principal Holly Jones.

It keeps families in the district and draws new ones in, said District Administrator Frank Helquist, as does full day 5-year-old kindergarten and 4K programming.

“We’re setting the table to be attractive to customers,” Helquist said. “I see it as positioning ourselves.”

In other business, the district tweaked its COVID-19 protocol to no longer require temperature checks at the door. A greeter will still meet everyone as they enter, but they will not be taking the temperatures of students and visitors.

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Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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