Jespersen shares idea for daycare, CTE program

Preschool teacher and cute kids boys playing in kindergarten

It’s the choice between educating the minds of today’s youth, and trying to find daycare for your own. This year alone a number of McNary High School staff have become new parents, except now these young educators find themselves in the middle of a daycare crisis. 

Daycare prices are rising and child care staff are decreasing, working parents everywhere are struggling to find affordable daycare options for their children. Fourteen staff members at McNary High School are now facing this dilemma, and McNary Principal Erik Jespersen is trying to create a solution: a new child care center. 

“I started noticing that we were facing a crisis, where I potentially might start losing employees because they don’t have anywhere to put their kids,” Jespersen said. 

His idea is to create a childcare center for McNary staff members, where a new Career Technology Education (CTE) program would take place as well to teach students about Early Childhood Education. This way McNary staff would have a place for their children, and students could get another CTE learning opportunity. 

Jespersen is looking to model programs that already exist in the state. Seventeen staff members at McNary said they would be on board with Jespersen’s plan. Though in the conceptual stage, Jespersen’s main focus is a child care center just for school staff children, with the age range being infants. 

“The most challenging aspects of daycare are the children that are zero to six months,” he said. “That’s where the crisis is.” 

Jespersen’s ideal vision would have the center on McNary grounds. 

“It became abundantly clear that wasn’t going to be possible,” Jespersen said, but he didn’t give up. McNary just didn’t have the space needed for child care. 

To get a program like this going, Jespersen has a lot of phone calls to make. 

He at first reached out to multiple other schools around the state such as Willamette High School, Roseburg High School, McMinnville High School and more who have similar programs when it comes to child care. 

From there Jespersen called around to local churches and businesses, anyone who had the space and would be interested in partnering with the school. Unfortunately those options also weren’t feasible. 

“It’s just been a grind, just grinding it in trying to figure it out” he said. 

So far in this conceptual stage, it seems that Jespersen will have to potentially partner with a local university and organizations that work with child care. 

“We might be able to bridge all of these groups together to create an option,” he said. “I’m still trying, but we haven’t gotten there yet.” 

The child care center will most likely not be in Keizer, but instead in Salem. Jespersen says that if they start to look at a more centralized location in the school district the program could become something where high school age students from all six comprehensive high schools come to work together. 

Jespersen sees the shortage in child care as another consequence from the COVID pandemic. When COVID hit, most daycare options went away. Coming back from the pandemic, many infant daycare options never returned. 

“Now we have these new parents that don’t have space for their children,” Jespersen said. 

When it comes to this program, Jespersen hardly sees any downside. 

“I know that this is important for our staff, I know that there’s great potential for a program for high school students to work with professional day care providers,” he said. 

Jespersen has a few main positives that could come of this possible child care program: 

Starting with the benefits for younger working staff. Many young staff at McNary don’t have daycare which can make it difficult for them to work.Additionally, creating affordable daycare options for the staff. Jespersen noticed that most of his employees who have children are early in their career so they don’t make as much money, causing another obstacle for staff when it comes to child care. Thirdly, the potential to expand to a CTE program in early Childhood Education. 

“As a high school principal I always (make) decisions with the idea of how I can make our high school experience as robust and meaningful as possible” he said. He also wants to help his staff do their job to the best of their ability. 

“All of this work is based on what I see as my job is making sure that our school is world class,” Jespersen said.