By Melinda Munson
The Skagway Borough Assembly unanimously passed Resolution 22-15R on June 2, allocating $200,000 in grants to two new licensed child care centers in Skagway.
The funding comes amid a childcare crisis in Skagway that Assemblywoman Reba Hylton, sponsor of the resolution, says is a chronic problem.
“When I first found out I was pregnant 10 years ago, before telling my own mum, I went to Grandma Linda and got my place to babysit my kids. , because I knew I couldn’t make it through this community without her help,” Hyton says.
With the closure of Mighty Munchkins Daycare earlier this year, Skagway finds itself with year-round service from Linda Calver, Little Cherubs Daycare, and seasonal providers Little Buck-a-roo Daycare and Little Dippers Learning Center.
Little Dippers, which rents a building owned by the municipality, is not associated with the borough and is run by the Skagway Child Care Council. The center opened at the start of this season to serve children who previously attended Mighty Munchkins. Due to a lack of staff, the property is open for limited hours, 10am-4pm at the cut-off time.
“I don’t think I need to elaborate on why these opening hours just don’t work for most workers. Six hours a day, four days a week is just not enough,” said mother Anna Nelson.
“…No blame was passed. I’m just saying it’s not enough,” she said.
Residents are worried about what will happen in the fall when Little Dippers and Little Buck-a-roo close for the year.
And many are wondering when Calver, otherwise known as Grandma Linda, will retire. She’s been in the business long enough to have babysat some of her client’s relatives.
“I heard I was quitting, but I probably won’t quit for a few years. But I heard this rumor. Even my grandson told me that yesterday,” she joked.
At the May 11 Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) meeting, Borough Director Brad Ryan asked Skagway Childcare Council President Kaitlyn Jared if Little Dippers would extend his hours and services if the municipality grants them funding, citing $100,000 as an example for discussion.
“What we don’t want to do is take a lot of money, pay people higher wages, and then not be able to sustain that,” Jared said.
“What would it be like if Dippers had deeper pockets and someone quit their job to come see us?” she added.
Jared said the childcare council had not received a formal offer and ‘we didn’t refuse or refuse anything. We are still processing it.
Resolution 22-15R, intended to increase the number of year-round child care providers in the city, would give $100,000 each to two newly licensed child care centers with a minimum of 10 children enrolled per month, operating 11 months a year . Facilities would receive $40,000 for the first year and $20,000 for the following three years.
A second resolution, 22-16R, also proposed by Hylton, was tabled and sent to the Finance Committee for consideration. If passed, the law would provide stipends for licensed child care centers that are open at least five consecutive months a year. Each child four years or younger would entitle the center to $300 per month and each child five years and older would entitle the center to $250 per month.
Calver told HEW the additional funds would be used to hire more staff to increase capacity and cover operating costs.
Hylton said she is proud of the legislation and hopes it will make life easier for Skagway’s parents.
“In addition to the number of families who are already leaving Skagway, this childcare crisis is now at a boiling point, and that will be the main reason others will go. I hope ours doesn’t isn’t included in that. But I don’t know at this point. It’s getting extremely difficult to raise a family here,” Nelson said.