Pods can help alleviate daycare shortage

The shortage of daycare in the county affects everyone. Even if you don’t have children or grandchildren in need of daycare, the fact that many people are not able to work because of this shortage can cause businesses to change hours, services or even be closed when people expect them to be open. Places like fast food restaurants often need to close down at busy times because they can not find the help to work. 

With this in mind, the Stevens County Commissioners approved using American Rescue Plan funds to build six small homes called pods. These homes will be leased to daycare providers. Each provider can then provide daycare for up to 14 children depending on licensure. The pods are currently under construction and the county is now looking for interested providers. 

The homes will have one bedroom, a full kitchen, one bathroom and a living area. There will be a washer and dryer and dishwasher included. There will be a fenced in backyard separate for  each home. 

Doing daycare in a pod setting and not in your home can have some advantages for some individuals. The provider may rent a home or live in an apartment so they do not have a place to do the daycare. By leasing one of the pods they do not have to buy or renovate their current home. The rental of a pod can also be temporary while someone is doing a renovation or building. Some daycare providers say that it is a lonely profession with little adult conversations. By having other daycares as your neighbors there is an opportunity to build friendships. 

The pod daycares will also give parents another option when looking for care for their child. They may not want a large daycare setting or even a small, in-home daycare. This will give them one more choice in the search for daycare for their child. 

The county is still looking at certain aspects for renting each pod such as how much to charge for rent and how to handle the utilities. The ARPA funds will build the pods but there is other work that will need to be done so the county is looking at doing some fundraising and maybe some in-kind donations. The City of Morris has donated the connections costs for sewer and water and businesses such as Joe Riley Construction, Federated Telephone and Otter Tail Power have already donated time and materials. 

The Daycare Committee recently enlisted the help of Shannon Foss from Hancock to do the fundraising. She will be planning events to help raise funds to cover the cost for parking lot finishing, landscaping, furnishings and outdoor play equipment. They will be forming a non-profit so any donations will be tax deductible. 

Stevens County Commissioner Jeanne Ennen is a member of the Daycare Committee and is hopeful that they will get enough providers to fill the pods. If this is a success, there is the potential to build six more buildings at the same site. In fact, there is room for up to 20 pods in that area. 

If you are interested in leasing a pod or simply want more information, contact County Administrator Rebecca Young at the Stevens County Courthouse. Construction will continue through the winter and hopefully the pods will be available to open in the spring.