Plans are currently under way to alleviate Macon County’s dismal child care prospects.
Last month, Town Planner Derek Roland submitted a statement to the media regarding the issue, lauding the efforts of locals to increase the availability of childcare facilities in Franklin. The statement followed the town’s allocation of water and sewer services to an organization seeking to establish a new center on 2255 Old Murphy Road.
“It is no secret that a significant and growing shortage of child care capacity exists in Macon County,” said Roland in his statement. “Currently, Macon County has a preschool (0-5 years) population of approximately 2,161 children. With only 678 slots available county-wide for these children, a nearly 70 percent shortfall in availability persists. Even more shocking, is the lack of availability within the 0-2 years, or infant and toddler age group, which has been estimated to be as high as 173 percent.”
Such figures have been determined by the County’s Child Care Issues Committee, established in 2009. Roland serves on the committee.
The sewer allocation approved by aldermen was for Macon Childcare and Educational Center. The facility, a privately-run non-profit, seeks to provide 24 hour services to up to 120 children per work shift. It expects to generate 35 employee positions.
Roland pointed out in the document that the facility would have a positive economic impact on the community as well.
“While benefitting the child, the childcare industry tremendously benefits the local economy as well. A study by Cornell University found that for every job created in the childcare industry, 1.45 jobs are created throughout the local economy,” he said. “Aside from serving as a main draw for new business coming into the area, childcare also contributes to the functionality and efficiency of existing businesses as well. One in ten workers in North Carolina has a child under 6. In a survey by the Economic Opportunity Institute, nearly 30 percent of workers knew employees who quit their jobs because of inadequate childcare availability. This employee turnover is estimated to cost as much as 1.5 times an employee’s salary.”
Lastly, Roland pointed out that the childcare venture would come at no cost to the 40 percent of county taxpayers over the age of 55, along with those without children. “In the end, this facility will contribute to the quality of life for all Macon County residents, and the Town of Franklin is honored to have played a part in that.”
Indeed the prospect of extra childcare facilities strikes a chord with some Franklin parents.
“I definitely think it’s a great idea to have another program for childcare,” said Jennifer Arose, a single, 27-year-old mother of four. “This county needs it. There’s not a lot of in-home sitters and there’s waiting lists for subsidized centers. There’s days you can’t work because there isn’t a lot of people who can watch your children.”
For Ronnie Bateman, 30, taking his 3- and 4-year-old out of private care for too long would be a nightmare, because of the legion of parents eager to have their kids watched while they work. “I had to wait weeks for my girls to get a classroom,” he said. “I don’t want to have to wait all over again.”
According to Macon Childcare and Educational Center board member Susie Williams, although the program (four years in the works) has not officially sealed the deal at the Old Murphy Road site, she is confident of the facility’s positive impact on Macon County.
“There is a tremendous need for childcare in Macon County,” said Williams, noting that only two childcare facilities with long waiting lists are currently available to local families. “We are looking to improve the situation.”
The nearly 10,000 square foot facility, sitting on four acres of land, will immerse youngsters in several areas of education with music, arts, crafts and basic computer teachers lined up to work. Children from six weeks to six years old are set to be handled by the facility. Williams said that if all goes well, and once the site of the project is acquired, the facility would like to open its doors by early January.