Grapevine Colleyville ISD

Childcare Worker Shortage Could Make Teacher Shortage Worse

School district is asking for help staffing childcare center

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The search for teachers may be getting tougher. More educators who want to teach say they may be forced to head to other jobs that let them work from home.

"I absolutely love these babies! Best thing on the planet! I don't know what I'd do without them," said Vicki Fields.

Fields works at the Early Childhood Development Center in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. Part childcare center, part school, it takes care of the youngest children of district employees while they work.

Lately, staffing the center has been a real problem.

"I've been in this field 25 years and I've never seen it like this," said Amy Parker, the center's director.

Parker thought nothing could be worse than working in childcare during COVID-19 and the February 2021 winter storm, which significantly impacted her building, but she says watching skilled childcare teachers make more money at fast-food restaurants, is worse.

"Average pay is between $12 and $14 an hour, they can't pay the bills. They love what they do but they can't pay the bills. They're leaving me in tears, but they're in debt and can't make ends meet," said Parker of her employees.

Parker has brought over students studying to be teachers to earn credit hours and recruiting grandmothers like Vicki to get certified and come help.... but even that's not been enough.

"Some days I feel like I've pulled the last rabbit out of my hat, I don't have any more tricks to play to keep us going," said Parker.

It is especially concerning to Sterling Bristow. He teaches calculus at Grapevine High. He enjoys educating future engineers, scientists and doctors but there's another job even more important to him, caring for his one-year-old son, Carter. 

"My son's classroom got shut down two weeks ago. He didn't have COVID at the time but my wife's working, we don't have family nearby and so I have to take off," said Bristow.

When COVID-19 hits a daycare it's tough.

"Someone who may be able to sub in the school system doesn't meet the training requirements for childcare," said Parker. COVID easily forced class closures for her.

Remember, hiring is a problem in the first place.

The center was down six full-time teachers before the school year started. They lost 10 more during the first semester.

"We have not been able to keep up with the wage increases that are happening in other sectors. While our staff love what they do, they are leaving because they can't pay the bills," she said.

Without a way to give them childcare... districts fear they'll lose teachers like Sterling Bristow, and he says that's a strong reality.

"I don't have anyone to watch my son and that's the most important thing to me. I love teaching but I'm going to do what I have to do with my kid," he said. 

There are calls for federal help to raise pay for day care workers. Childcare centers like the one in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD are working with anyone willing to come and help get the training they need.

You can get more information here.

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