City and Borough of Juneau and Juneau School District Joint Facilities Committee members review findings about space for child care programs in Juneau Schools. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

City and Borough of Juneau and Juneau School District Joint Facilities Committee members review findings about space for child care programs in Juneau Schools. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Committee: No space in schools for more child care programs

Final report from district and city expected soon

Space for new child care services in Juneau is unlikely to come from public schools.

While a City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and Juneau School District Joint Facilities Committee’s findings aren’t yet official, an in-progress report reviewed during a Tuesday afternoon meeting favors focusing on expanding existing pre-kindergarten programs for children between the ages of 3-5 rather than creating new programs for younger children.

While an in-progress document lacks a labeled conclusion, the sentence “the Joint Facilities Committee found it more appropriate for JSD to focus on expansion of current Pre-K programs” was favored by committee members as a succinct summary.

“That is our conclusion,” said Assembly member Mary Becker, committee chair.

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A shortage of child care in Juneau is a public concern and was recently examined by the CBJ Childcare Committee. That committee recently issued its final report that found child care is an immediate and pressing concern for working families in Juneau and made recommendations for short-term and long-term steps that could be taken to increase local child care options.

The group of Assembly members, school board members and school administrators that met Tuesday is separate from the Childcare Committee and specifically examined how space in Juneau schools could potentially address a lack of child care in Juneau.

While findings from the joint committee aren’t yet final, Becker said the goal is to finalize a report next week.

However, the discussions Tuesday largely focused on making changes to the language used to summarize the findings rather than substantial changes to what the committee found.

The findings suggest creating new offerings for children between the ages of 0 and 3 within Juneau schools “would likely be a time-consuming process that required significant legal and administrative review of procedures and policies.”

Additionally, the findings indicated there is little room to spare within the district.

“Currently, the only unused space available for child care programs in JSD facilities are two modular classrooms at Floyd Dryden Middle School,” stated a preliminary draft of the report. “Facility improvements to add water and sewer service would be required if these portables were to be utilized for child care programs. Future space availability in the elementary schools is dependent on future enrollments. There is no space available for child care in the middle schools. There may a classroom or two that could be made available in the high schools but would likely required relocation of existing programs to vacate the classroom.”

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Some of the changes that were mentioned by committee members were adding the city to a list of child care funding sources and making the distinction between child care and pre-K evident in the report.

Assembly members Wade Bryson and Carole Triem both advocated for adding distinguishing definitions for child care and pre-K. For the purposes of the committee, pre-K programs are educational environments for children aged 3 to 5 that are already offered inside Juneau schools. Child care was the term used for programs for children from 0 to 3.

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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