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County Board narrowly refers child care program with La Crosse Schools for another month

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The La Crosse County Board will wait another month before it makes a decision on whether to fund a child care program with the School District of La Crosse.

The board narrowly approved to refer the decision for 30 more days on Thursday, as concerns of the impact the program might have on child care businesses around the community remain.

The program, which was presented to the board back in April, would help fund a child care center within the district that would serve impoverished families in targeted La Crosse neighborhoods and district staff.

La Crosse County is looking at spending $696,000 from its American Rescue Plan Act funding on the La Crosse project, which would run over a three-year trial period. County officials said the school district would pay a little over $1 million.

On Thursday, the board looked at a resolution for a second time that would allocate a total of $3 million to that project and similar projects proposed by other districts in the county.

There was a lot of debate on the issue, and almost every county board supervisor spoke during the discussion.

Those wanting to spend more time on the particular proposal were concerned that funding a school district child care program would hurt other providers already in the community.

Jack Pogreba

Jack Pogreba

“I don’t know if I could support sending money to the school district, knowing that it’s going to hurt our private daycare providers now,” supervisor Jack Pogreba said.

The original referral was in-part intended so that county officials could meet with daycare providers in the area, but officials said they were still waiting to meet, though some supervisors said they had met on an individual basis with business owners. Some urged that providers be ready to present their own proposal at next month’s planning meeting.

An additional 30 days, supervisors hoped, would provide more answers to the impact the project might have.

Others thought the La Crosse Schools proposal was an action the county board could take immediately to help address the child care crisis.

Many supported breaking the money up more — giving La Crosse Schools the roughly $700,000 it needed and dividing the rest up between proposals from other school districts or private daycare providers, such as grants to support higher wages.

After more than about an hour of discussion, the referral passed on a 16-12 vote.

The pause in approving funding is likely to impact the timeline of the school district’s project, which was hoped to open by the beginning of the next school year.

In a Q&A with county and school district officials shared with the Tribune, it was stated that, “It will be very difficult to open by September 1 right now. A delay of a month will make it impossible.”

The letter stated the district would need between four and six months to complete the renovations needed and hire staff.

While it was stated private daycare centers are currently drafting a proposal for their own type of support, county officials said no other school districts in the La Crosse County have expressed interest in developing a similar child care program.

The resolution will head back before the board in July to be considered for a third time.

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