Rural employers stress need for providing adequate day care facilities

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Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part story on a joint meeting of the District 777 Board of Education and Benson City Council on areas in which the two could possibly cooperate to serve the community.
The first story dealt with the reason for the meeting as well as the financial challenges the two public bodies face. This story addresses what became the primary foc us of the discussion – the pressing need for day care facilities in not just Benson, but Swift County.

Next week the Monitor-News will report on options for day care facilities.

As they discussed common challenges in search of ways the City of Benson and the Benson Public Schools could work together, sharing financial resources, members of the two governing bodies focused in on the lack of day care available locally.

No solutions were found. But it was agreed there was a critical need to address what is seen as a significant shortage of day care facilities in the area.

A community offering adequate day care options to young workers who will replace the retiring Baby Boom generation is seen as crucial to the area’s employers. It not only helps attract employees, it helps keeps those who have been hired here.

“You will see a revolving door for employment without adequate day care services,” Swift County-Benson Health Services CEO Kurt Waldbillig told members of the city council and school board at the meeting. People will go to Willmar looking for jobs if they can’t find day care for their children in Benson. They will also look for jobs in Willmar instead of Benson, he said.

The hospital is working toward building an assisted living and memory care facility next year. It will mean hiring new staff to care for the people who will be cared for in it.  It is also working to attract new doctors to the community as well as other medical service providers.

To get young people to move to the community providing day care is essential, Waldbillig told the council and school board.

SCBHS has hired a recruitment firm to help with its efforts to bring more doctors and nurse practioners to Benson, Waldbillig said. If the community won’t do anything about seeing that there are more day care options for workers coming to the community, then maybe the hospital will have to look at what it can do, he said.

“We can’t wait two years for a day care facility,” Waldbillig said. This is a need that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Day care for employees is key to the future of the school district’s financial health, which translates into the educational opportunities children will have.

Lucas Olson, who works at Carlson Machine & Fab, LLC, and who is running for the open seat on the city council, attended the joint meeting of the council and school board. He told the two bodies that his wife has to take their young child to Willmar with her when she goes to work because local day care services aren’t available. The pressing need in the community is for day care services for children under 3 years old, he said.

It worries members of the school board when they see children leave the community for early childhood classes or day care services because they know they might lose the child, as well as the child’s siblings, for all their school years.
There are already parents who have taken their children to the Hancock school district, School Board Member Bill McGeary said. We have asked those people what it would take to get their children back in Benson’s schools. “They say there isn’t anything we can do to bring them back,” he said. They send busses over here to pick up the kids, he said.

When kids grow up in the Benson area, and graduate from school here, they are more likely to be willing to return to the community when they get older, School Board Member Jodi DeJong-Hughes said.
When a person goes on maternity leave from the school district, she might end up extending that leave for a couple months because of the inability to find newborn day care, Supt. Dennis Laumeyer said. Employees and employers in the private sector also face that same problem....


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