Enid Public Schools is working to open its own day care center by next school year, in an effort to provide teachers and district employees with low-cost childcare.

“Day care is expensive,” Randy Rader, EPS assistant superintendent of elementary education said, adding that “we lose a lot of teachers,” in part because of childcare costs. “So if we can help with that, we definitely want to.”

The financial goal for the day care is to break even, he said, “we are not trying to make money off of it.”

As a not-for-profit enterprise, it will be able to offer services for notably less than other options in the Enid area.

The district hopes the program will incentivize educators to come and work for EPS, as well as encourage teachers already employed by the district to stay.

“We want to find a way to provide benefits that make Enid the place to be,” Rader said. “We can offer some things that maybe some of our surrounding districts can’t and that can help us provide good teachers, keep those teachers, and draw in new teachers.”

Low-cost day care is the latest addition to EPS’ talent recruitment and retention efforts.

The district also offers signing bonuses to new teachers with in-demand skillsets, and a compensation package $2,400 more than the state minimum, according to EPS. Amid the ongoing teacher shortage, Rader said it’s vital that districts be competitive in recruiting staff.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education revealed in February that 30,000 Oklahoma teachers had left the profession over the last six years. The shortage has left school districts statewide saddled with vacancies they either can’t fill, or have filled with emergency certified teachers. Emergency certifications are issued by the OSDE, and allow individuals without a state teaching license to teach for up to two years.

Enid Public Schools currently has 32 employees with emergency certifications, and one vacancy, EPS spokeswoman Amber Fitzgerald said.

“We want to keep our good young teachers,” Rader said. “We really try anything and everything we can.”

The EPS day care program is still months away from implementation.

Rader just recently received the day care application paperwork from the state Department of Human Services, which must approve EPS’ request, and the search for a childcare director to run the center is also a work in progress. He said he wants to have the program up and running by the start of the fall 2019 semester, he said.

There is no official estimate yet of what the day care center will cost the district, but Rader said he expects it to be “relatively low.”

Garfield Elementary School is the planned site for the day care.

Story provided by Enid News & Eagle

Written by: Mitchell Willetts