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YMCA hoping to expand daycare service

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

When you hear the word “desert,” you immediately think climate. But there are other kinds of deserts and, if you’re not a parent or guardian, you may not realize we’re living in a childcare desert.

In other words, there’s not enough licensed childcare for the number of children in need.

Citing a statistic from Alliance for Better Childcare Strategies, Pulaski Mayor David Clark pointed out only 8.55 percent of Pulaski children under the age of six have access to licensed, full-time childcare. That compares with 21.44 percent in Montgomery County, 13.7 percent in Floyd and 34.8 percent in Radford.

Pulaski Town Manager Shawn Utt told town council Tuesday finding childcare is so difficult locally that two members of the Y’s board of directors are on a waiting list for the Y’s Daycare Center. Utt also serves on the Y’s board.

“They could fill two classrooms today, if they had the room,” Utt said of the YMCA childcare program. As a result of this need for childcare options, the YMCA is looking for a place to expand.

Utt says a location may have been found, but there’s going to be a bit of work involved. The Y also may be looking to the town for some funding sources, he added.

“I’m really excited about this,” he told council members as he revealed the YMCA is looking at restoring the old Calfee Training School on Magnox Drive. The project would not only provide much needed childcare services, but also would allow for the preservation of the school’s history.

The building, which has sat empty for years, was constructed in the late 19th century for educating Pulaski’s African-American children. The original school burned down in 1938, so the current structure was built in 1940.

A tour of the building determined it was in “surprisingly good shape,” Utt said; although a more recent addition is not in good condition and would be best removed.

He said this would be a good opportunity to combine two projects, as another group of people in town is working on restoring the old T.G. Howard Center that was built and operated by the African-American community.

Council members seemed pleased with the idea. Jamie Radcliffe said there is a lot of history in both buildings, so this is a “golden opportunity” for improving childcare access and resurrecting area history.

Councilman Joseph Goodman said the project should be a high priority.

GO Pulaski, a community workday, plans to work on cleaning up the Calfee School property Sept. 15.

Utt says there are liens on the Calfee property with the town and county due to unpaid taxes. The property has a $370,000 assessment on the tax books.

Goodman suggested the town, and possibly county, could forgive the liens in exchange for ownership of the property.

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