By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Lack of childcare in Cooperstown Central School District is causing a crisis for many families of young children.
The Clark Sports Center had previously served the role but now is closed for children under 12 because of COVID pandemic restrictions.
Mary Jane Sansevere, a Cooperstown resident with a husband and two children, said her family was forced to move her children out of the school district because of a lack of childcare. She also resigned her position in Cooperstown and took a job at Schenevus Central School as a pre-k teacher.
“Childcare in this town is sort of at a crisis level,” Sansevere said in a conversation with AllOtsego.com.
Sansevere said her only options were to have her youngest child come to work with her or have her husband, who works in Cobleskill, come home from work early, neither of which are good options according to her.
“He’s too young. He needs to be supervised,” Sansevere said. “He’s only seven.”
Eventually, she said she was forced to pull her children out of the Cooperstown district.
“It’s sad because he liked it in Cooperstown. He missed his friends,” Sansevere said. “But the bottom line is childcare.”
Babysitting was also an option, but generally they were only available between March and June.
One parent, who moved to Cooperstown four years ago from Long Island, said other parents were also considering moving because of lack of available childcare.
Sansevere said she reached out to Meg Kiernan, the town supervisor for Otsego, on getting childcare in Cooperstown. Kiernan told her she would try to authorize stimulus funds to help pay for childcare in the district.
“It didn’t seem to be a top priority for (Cooperstown Central School),” Kiernan said on her efforts to get childcare for the district. “I just felt like the school dropped the ball.”
Kiernan set up a meeting with representatives from the Clark Sports Center, the Brookwood School, (which offers nursery, pre-school and elementary school programs) and Cooperstown Central School to try and come up with a solution.
The Clark Sports Center originally offered an after school program that would take place at the school at no cost to families. However, plans have stalled as the school didn’t provide the information needed by the Clarks Sports Center to start the program, Kiernan said.
“I knew that transportation was a problem. Stimulus money could’ve paid for it. It needed to be used for something that was affected by COVID,” Kiernan said. “I was trying to get budgets from people, and nobody seemed to be able to give that to me.”
There is an afterschool homework help group in Cooperstown provided by the company resource.Me, which charges $400 per month per student.*
Stephanie Nelen set up resource.Me and said she wasn’t doing it for money but to provide a service that was lacking.
“The thing that stinks is I have to charge,” Nelen said. “I have to cover my overhead.” Nelen mentioned the costs of insurance and rent as part of the expenses.
“Our goal is always to have 20 (students) so I can pay the instructors,” Nelen said. “This is just a side business I did to help out the community.”
Nelen said the childcare issue is a serious problem for Cooperstown. “It’s more difficult than you think and the only reason I understand is because I’m a teacher by day,” Nelen said. “I feel terrible for families.”
Sansevere stressed the importance of having reliable childcare in the community.
“The pandemic has been enormously stressful for families with young children. The lack of any childcare options in the village has exacerbated this stress several fold,” Sansevere said. “It is taking a toll on parents’ financial well-being and mental health, and it is leaving many students without a safe, stable place to go after school.”
Calls and emails of Cooperstown Central School Superintendent Sarah Spross were not returned by press time Tuesday.
*A previous version of this article stated that resource.me wasn’t currently running