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SCHUYLER – Schuyler Economic Development is moving forward with early childhood education center project in hopes to retain the workforce.

“We are having a hard time retaining employees because of the lack of daycares and early childhood development centers,” said Jackie Farrell, economic development at Schuyler Economic Development.

Farrell also serves as the chamber executive director for Schuyler Chamber of Commerce.

The Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Communities for Kids initiative offers assistance to communities with the need for early childhood development. The foundation ran a community assessment throughout the area, including schools and inns. Numerous parents had the opportunity to voice their needs by completing the assessment.

Data from the assessment revealed that there are 689 children under the age of 6 with available parents working outside of the home. Of that number, 408 children under the age of 6 are not enrolled in licensed childcare or public preschool.

“Someone in the community is probably watching those kids,” Farrell said.

The parents of these children often times look to other family members or close friends to take care of their kids while they are at work. Although it is a reasonable alternative, Farrell wants to better prepare children for school.

Community members also highlighted their priorities on the assessment. Approximately 96 percent of resonders prioritize quality childcare, followed by the need to be more involved with their children’s schools and childcare centers. Other important areas highlighted were: Screening for developmental milestones, child’s social and emotional needs being met and information on domestic violence.

The Schuyler Education Center Committee was established in fall 2017 with the mission to create an all-inclusive educational facility for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old. The committee is still in the planning phase and is looking to recruit more members to help move the project forward.

“We want to make it a one-stop shop and provide other services there besides just early childhood development,” Farrell said.

Although there a numerous daycares available in the area, they don’t necessarily place an emphasis on early childhood education, she said.

The upcoming center plans to have a curriculum to help with the different developmental stages of childhood. Farrell hopes to incorporate different organizations such as the Center for Survivors and the hospital for health checks and immunizations.

The center can be a unified resource center for children and parents.

Farrell said that it is tough to attract new families into Schuyler because of the lack of such facilities. In addition,  Schuyler Community Development is working on increasing housing in the area.

“We are looking at this to help improve recruitment and retention of employees,” she said.

The committee will be looking at affordability, location and the possibility of including a sick childcare service.

“We want it to be something that everyone has the opportunity to participate in,” Farrell said. “And really opening those communication lines between parents and the community.”

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