The future of Durango School District 9-R’s child care program, Kids’ Camp, is in jeopardy.
The district sent out a newsletter to parents on Wednesday announcing a shortage of child care workers, and encouraging people to apply for numerous open positions at Kids’ Camp.
District spokeswoman Julie Popp said the employee shortage has been a chronic issue for the district.
“This is a position that is hard to fill,” she said. “We have consistent staff, but we are unable to grow that staff so that we can serve more kids. We have more families who need to access this program, but we do not have the staff to man this need.”
Kids’ Camp is an after-school enrichment program that is offered at every Durango 9-R elementary school, except for Sunnyside and Fort Lewis Mesa. Students from both schools are bused to different Kids’ Camp locations.
“This program has been in service for a long time,” Popp said. “It is primarily there for families who need after-school child care. Kids can go there immediately after school and have tutoring support and enrichment activities. They are not just sitting around and watching television.”
The five Kids’ Camp locations each have two employees and a current capacity for 30 children.
A typical Kids’ Camp shift for an aide is from 2:30 to 6 p.m. for a total of 19 hours per week. Site coordinators work from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The district has made several attempts to fill the openings, including hosting and attending job fairs and reaching out to students in high school and college.
“We are casting a broader net to find people,” Popp said. “We are looking online, holding job fairs and putting the word out into our community so that we can build our staffing base.”
High school and college students are encouraged to apply as aides and will help with the supervision of the children and overseeing activities.
Additionally, the district will work with applicants to find other job openings to fill an eight-hour work day.
“We also have openings in para-professional positions at the district,” Popp said. “We’ve gotten creative on how we build a full-time position for people.”
Still, Durango 9-R’s efforts have fallen short, and the district is considering decreasing capacity at its Kids’ Camps if the shortage continues.
“We are still trying to cast this net before we have to make adjustments to our schedule,” Popp said. “We will work to give families ample notice if we do have to reduce our capacity.”
The district’s struggle to hire and retain child care workers is in line with trends across the county.
Most early childhood education centers in La Plata County have full enrollment and wait-lists.
People interested in open positions at Durango 9-R’s Kids’ Camp are encouraged to apply on the district’s website. Durango 9-R high school students can apply through their school counselors.