Childcare service providers in Cortland continue to push for funding to make the proposed Cortland Community Early Learning Center at the former Parker School site a reality.
At Tuesday’s Federal Aid Allocation Citizen’s Advisory Committee meeting, YWCA executive director Kelly Tobin and Cortland County Community Action Program (CAPCO) executive director Lindy Glennon presented a request for half a million dollars from the county’s American Rescue Plan funds to hire staff and set up air conditioning. The two proposed, two-year positions would be part time and would help provide expertise in project management, grant management, and construction.
The Federal Aid Allocation Citizen’s Advisory Committee consists of committee and county legislative chair Paul Heider (R-LD 16), minority leader Beau Harbin (D-LD 2), legislators Sandy Price (D-LD 14), George Wagner (R-LD 15), Christopher Newell (R-LD 11), Cathy Bischoff (D-LD 3), Susan Wilson (D-LD 5), and county administrator Rob Corpora.
The proposed Cortland Community Early Learning Center (CCELC) would bring all childhood education services under one roof. It is located at the Alton B. Parker Elementary School site, which shut its doors to students in 2017 when the Cortland Enlarged City School District (CECSD) consolidated school facilities.
At this time, the City of Cortland Common Council will hold a public hearing on Oct. 5 to vote on the purchasing of the Parker site from CECSD.
“This project is an opportunity to make the most out of the resources we already have and give us something to build toward,” Glennon said. “Our vision is to make sure children in our community have the best early learning opportunities that as a community we can possibly give them.”
Both positions, one for a construction manager and the other one for a project manager, would cost approximately $100,000 over the course of two years. The construction manager would work with architects and contractors in the details and completion of the project, according to Tobin and Glennon’s proposal. The construction manager would also oversee the scope of the work done and the day-to-day details at the site.
The project manager, Tobin said, would have a more involved role in securing funding from state and federal sources, as well as work with the YWCA’s and CAPCO’s vision of childhood education to implement new learning strategies.
Tobin and Glennon’s proposal also calls for $300,000 in order to provide air conditioning for infant toddler classrooms, which they said is a strong recommendation from child care licensing bodies such as the New York state’s Office of Children and Family Services.
The proposal highlights the need for air conditioning given the current COVID-19 public health crisis and the need to have fresh air circulation at indoor facilities.
Tobin spoke to the needs of new childcare initiatives in Cortland County, highlighting the role the pandemic has had in the county’s traditional childcare offerings like the YWCA’s Here We Grow programs, and CAPCO’s Head Start and Early Head Start services for low-income families.
“We are looking for ways to consolidate childcare in our community, looking for ways to collaborate because childcare is not a business that makes a lot of money,” Tobin said of the community’s need for the project. “In fact, it is a service that nonprofits carry most of the financial burden to provide to the community. (Before the pandemic), we were looking for innovative ways to stay alive.”
Prior to the closures of in-person businesses and the implementation of public health COVID-19 epidemic, the YWCA’s childcare programs serviced 99 children as old as 5-years-old. Currently, Tobin said, the number is down to 40.