top of page
  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

Prairie View board approves next step in starting daycare

Updated: Jun 19

The former Prairie View district bus barn will house the daycare center the district plans on opening by the beginning of the 2024-25 school year in mid-August. The cost to transform the structure is estimated at about $350,000. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

Despite a single dissenting vote, the Prairie View USD 362 Board of Education gave the green light to Superintendent Chris Johnson to move forward with plans to open a daycare center in La Cygne by the beginning of the fall semester in mid-August.

In February, Callie Hoffman, director of United Way of Miami and Linn Counties, told the board that her organization had funds to help study the need and likely costs of opening a school-supported daycare. She told board members that, according to information gathered, the Prairie View district was severely underserved by daycare providers.

At that meeting, the board voted to allow Johnson to perform a survey of parents likely to use that service as well as look at options for a building for the daycare.

In her report to the board on Tuesday, May 21, Johnson said she had received 47 responses from parents who had children in the half-day preschool program or would have their children in that program next year. Although some of the responses indicated that they would not be needing the daycare because of a stay-at-home parent or arrangement, most all agreed that it was a necessary service.

Johnson said the thought was to offer daycare openings to students enrolled in the 3- to 4-year-old pre-kindergarten classes first and then to open it up once the need was established. Those enrolled in the pre-K program would be shuttled from Parker and La Cygne elementary schools depending on whether they were enrolled in a morning or afternoon pre-K session.

She told the board that the former district bus barn in La Cygne would house the daycare center, and that she had received an estimate that it would cost about $350,000 to convert the building into a state-approved facility. The other option would have been to lease or purchase a portable classroom because there is no other room available in the district.

Johnson said initially the center would accommodate about 70 students, including 35 from Parker and 35 from La Cygne. A tentative schedule for the facility included hours from 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the week, and she anticipated that the cost per student per month would be about $350, slightly less than the going rate for private sector daycare in the area.

Anticipating that staff would include a director and two workers, Johnson estimated the annual salary costs would be about $86,000.

However, the superintendent said she would also be looking for grants to help reduce the costs to the district. United Way would be the source of about $106,000 to get the building construction under way. Another possible source of funds would be the Patterson Family Foundation, a Kansas City, Mo.-based philanthropical foundation that has a goal of helping rural communities thrive. The foundation already provides generous scholarships for seniors graduating from area high schools.

It also is one of the main benefactors of Louisburg school district’s daycare program. That program recently expanded from one room to two rooms with the help of a Patterson Family Foundation grant, Johnson said. She added that the Louisburg program charges about $300 per month for the daycare.

Board member Brian Lueker said he thought that additional daycare services in the district had been needed for quite some time, however, he and other board members asked more pointed questions about funding.

Johnson said the grant application window for the Patterson Family Foundation grants was open until mid-June.

Board member Wade Teagarden, who cast the dissenting vote to proceed, was still skeptical and said he wasn’t “excited” about the district going into daycare. “I’m trying to get over that,” he said.

But board member Rita Boydston pointed that she didn’t see more daycare centers being started and saw the district’s involvement as a partial answer to the shortage.

Board member George Nunnemacher said it sounds like the need for additional daycare was there, and if there was a reasonable expectation for such a program to succeed, the district should proceed with its plan.

Johnson said she would call a special meeting in early June once the costs are more firm

Prairie View school board president Russell Pope, from right, hands out certificates to scholars bowl team members Cole Holler, Mason Mitzner, Creed Caldwell, Collin Pope, and Kimball Uphoff during the school board meeting on May 21. The team placed third in the Class 3A competition in February. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

In other business, the board:

  • Learned that in state English language assessment scores, six of the grades tested scored better than the state median, and one grade was slightly below the median. On the math assessment, four grades scored better than the state median, one grade was tied and two grades were slightly lower than the median. On the science assessment, two of the three grades tested had scores above the state median, and the other grade tied with the median.

  • Learned that the district’s breakfast and lunch program lost money again during the 2023-24 school year, however, the loss was not as significant as the year before. Food service director Todd Willard said some families are still not motivated to keep their accounts current. “Hopefully we’re trying to change the trend from previous years,” he said, adding that those debts will be carried over into the next school year.

  • ]Agreed to begin paying for electricity for the ball field at La Cygne Elementary. The district pays for the lights at the Parker Elementary field, and the board reasoned it should take over the current $350 to $450 monthly cost from the La Cygne Ball Association for May and June each year.

  • Heard a request from Boydston that the current marquee in front of the high school be replaced with an updated electronic sign. The current sign requires students or staff to place individual letters on the relatively small board. She said other schools have more attractive marquees. Principal Kate Gronquist said members of her staff had a conversation about that earlier that day. Boydston estimated the cost would be $25,000, but Johnson said it could easily run three times that amount.

  • Hired Connie Reynolds as a high school science teacher, and hired retiring science teacher Dennis Bolton as a substitute teacher. Mary Spurlin was hired as the high school principal’s secretary, and Adriane Barrett, who is certified as a nurse-practitioner, was hired as district nurse. The board accepted the resignation of high school counselor Stephanie Nichols, who will be going to Jayhawk-Linn High School to serve as curriculum director there.

107 views0 comments


bottom of page