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Collaboration Seeks to Address Childcare, Teacher Shortage in Rural Virginia

Alex McCarthy

A new partnership in Central Virginia is helping tackle a shortage of childcare and teachers. Organizers hope it can be expanded to other parts of the state.

In rural Virginia, it can be hard to find childcare. And when you can find it, it’s expensive, according to Kenny Bouwens.  "We live one county over where there is literally no daycare at all,” Bouwens notes.

Bouwens is the director of Career and Technical Education for Louisa County Public Schools. He  helps run the Little Lions Learning Lab, a collaboration with James Madison University to provide teachers with affordable childcare.

The childcare program is staffed in part by high school students, who get hands-on experience and work toward a teacher certification.

The program also serves as a recruiting tool and it’s already showing results. Math teacher Karen Redd took a job with the school system last summer, in part so she could get her son Kyle into childcare.  Redd came from Albemarle County, where childcare comes with a hefty price tag. “I would say, at least $1,000 a month," she estimates. "A lot for the teacher pay.”

The learning lab is $400 per month.

James Madison University professor Reece Wilson comes to the learning lab once a week to provide guidance. Wilson said he thinks the program can be replicated in other areas. “Lots of schools need help and lots of universities want to reach out to the community.”

Wilson says all it takes is a university willing to make a commitment.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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