Monday, May 20, 2024

As demand for childcare rises, YMCA afterschool program needs more staff

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LEAVENWORTH – The Wenatchee Valley YMCA’s childcare program offers care to Leavenworth’s elementary students before and after school, as well as holiday breaks. Every year it grows in popularity, yet the YMCA has continuously struggled to find enough staff to meet the increasing needs. If the YMCA is unable to find at least two more staff for the upcoming school year, the program will not be able to provide sufficient hours for enough students.

“Last year we had a small waitlist, but this year is a waitlist that we've never had before. We have numbers on our daily that we've never seen. We've got more kids coming on our daily that we’ve never had. We're in the 20’s on Sunday, which is amazing to see,” said YMCA Childcare Coordinator Mollee Lewallen.

The program has spread rapidly through word of mouth, providing much needed care for Peshastin-Dryden and Alpine Lakes students. After school, students get to participate in art, outdoor play, and even get help with their homework as their parents get off work. However, with such few staff on hand, the program is at risk of reducing hours if someone calls out sick, which puts unwanted pressure on families.

“Those parents that are working here in town, that are not off till 4:30 - 5 o'clock. What do they do with their kids if we’re shortening our hours?...It's a domino effect,” said Lewallen.

The before and after school program are split-shifts and part-time, which Lewallen suspects is one of the reasons they don’t receive many applicants for the Leavenworth program. However, the East Wenatchee location has been able to hire both high school and college students, who have schedules that align with the elementary school.

“It's the perfect after-school job. We provide full daycare on the days that they don't have school, so it works out perfectly. We close at 6 p.m., so you're home by 6:30 p.m. at the latest. We can be flexible with scheduling when it comes to sports. What we ask for is consistency, transparency and the ability to work together on a schedule that works for everybody,” said Brogan Potter, YMCA Senior Director of Programs, during a Cascade School District Board meeting.

The program is not only conducive to school schedules, but it’s also a great way for those interested in becoming teachers, or pursuing other childcare related careers, to get experience. Lewallen says the YMCA will provide the necessary training and certifications for the job.

“I always tell them that this is a great position to start with and get the experience with elementary kids in a different environment that's not just a sit-down, classroom environment. If you've never worked with kids, this is a great place to start and have that learning opportunity,” said Lewallen.

The YMCA is currently looking for more full-time staff for its summer program, which could transition into the part-time position in the fall. For those interested only in the part-time school care, Lewallen suggests applying in July. Applicants can find out more at wenymca.org/join-our-team.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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