CENTER TO BE OPENED IN SPRING
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Cooperstown Center wants to care for the young, to assist helping the not-so-young.
“We’ve had a lot of staffing issues because people call and they say they couldn’t get a babysitter,” said Heather Welch, office manager. “So we’re opening a pre-school.”
Dubbed Centers Childcare of Cooperstown, the preschool is a pilot across the Centers Healthcare Network as a way to provide low-cost, fully licensed childcare, so employees can be more dependably available.
“Childcare is expensive,” said Lacey Rinker, director of nursing. “At the Centers employee seminar, they asked what people needed, and several people made a suggestion for daycare. We recognize there’s a huge need.”
Centers CEO Kenny Rozenberg refers to staff as “a very close family,” said Yecheskal Milworm, head of special projects. “We’ve heard from staff who say their spouse is watching the kids, but they can’t get a job themselves because they don’t have childcare. There’s a tremendous need by staff, and he recognizes that.”
After two years in development, the program, which will open this spring, will be in the former staff dining room, which is now being adapted for the new use. It will be open 6 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week.
“We were lucky to get to be the first one to try this,” said the local Centers administrator, Levi Lazar. “We see it as a way to give our staff a healthy work-life balance.”
Sherri Bartelson, who worked for Sissy’s Little Lambs Children’s Center in Cherry Valley, will be lead teacher. “I’ve been a director, lead teacher, mother to two and grandmother to one,” she said. “I believe that kids learn best through play, but it will be a fully-educational pre-school program with math, arts, sciences, modeling conflict management and empathy teaching.”
Although the first class will be for ages 3-5, Bartelson hopes to expand and include infants as well. In the future, Milworm said, they will look into offering after school programming.
“Being open seven days a week will really help cater to staff needs,” said Bartelson.
“It will not only help get our employees here, but kids will also have the opportunity to interact with other kids their own age,” said Welsh.
Centers will be hiring additional teachers, depending on the number of applicants.
Rinkler said that tuition will be “competitive” with other childcare options in the area, and parents may be eligible for tax credits or vouchers from the state.
“It’s not about making money,” she said. “We just need to cover the costs.”
And Lazar believes it will help recruit high-quality staff to Centers. “We are trying everything to bring the best staff to care for our residents,” he said. “This way, parents don’t have to drop kids off, they’re right here.”
State regulations require a separation between the residents and the childcare, but the residents will still get some benefits.
“Research shows that adults brain function picks up when they hear children laughing,” said Milworm.