CCSD superintendent discusses opening staff daycare at Shawmut

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 9, 2024

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The Chambers County School District will open a low-cost daycare for the children of CCSD staff members at the Shawmut recreation facility. The daycare will be open to children ranging in age from infants to those going into Pre-K. 

The hope is to include a Pre-K and kindergarten in the same building where all Valley area children can attend, getting rid of Pre-K and Kindergarten at Huguley and Fairfax elementary schools. 

“We’ve been looking for ways to try to incentivize our teachers to come here…and stay and raise their families and to be able to recruit new younger teachers and families to come here and stay,” said Casey Chambley, CCSD Superintendent.

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Chambley said there is a statewide and nationwide teacher shortage, prompting the district to find incentives to bring teachers to the county. The idea for a daycare was born from Cookie Thomas, the administrative assistant to Chambley, after hearing other counties do something similar.

The district sent out a survey to teachers and staff on if the program would be something they would use. Chambley said it was an “overwhelmingly positive” response, with staff having 40-60 children that would potentially enroll.

The funds for converting the old Shawmut recreation facility will come from a grant received from the lieutenant governor’s office. School district officials met with an architect on the site, near what was the Shawmut community pool and gym. 

“We’ve got that open area of the building that’s next to the gymnasium. Inside there is about 2500-2800 square feet,” Chambley said. 

The idea was originally a part of the master facility plan laid out in 2022. When plans for consolidating the high schools and creating the magnet program in LaFayette took priority, the elementary school plan was rethought. The original plan was to close Shawmut and keep Fairfax and Heugley Elementary open. 

After talks with Dr. Sheila Jones, the CCSD K-8 Director, and Tana Cannon, the principal of Bob-Harding Shawmut, the district now wants to turn Shawmut into an early childhood learning center. The site would then house a daycare for staff, as well as all the Pre-K and Kindergarten classes for the Valley area elementary schools. 

Chambley said that there are certain requirements for Pre-K and kindergarten classes.

“It’s really easier if you could have everybody on one campus instead of having them all spread out on different campuses,” Chambley said. 

He adds that this way there would still be a lottery to get into the pre-K program but not for what school the child would go to. Chambley said other benefits of housing the daycare in the same area, is the kids will be getting “curriculum ready” for Pre-K. 

The superintendent sees the daycare adding anywhere from 6-10 teaching positions, as well as a director. He hopes that education students and paraprofessionals will staff the daycare as a way to encourage teacher training.

“They’re getting experience working with the kids and kind of on-job training, and then we are kind of almost growing our own,” Chambley said. 

While the district is still in the beginning stages of the project, the architects gave a projected date of the center opening in January of 2025, if a contractor is hired relatively soon.