GRAND RAPIDS, MI — The WK Kellogg Foundation, a private grantmaking organization based in Battle Creek, is looking for ways to expand access to affordable, high-quality child care for families in Grand Rapids.
The philanthropic foundation reached out to local organizations across the city, including the Rapid Bus System and Grand Rapids Public Schools, to discuss a potential partnership that would develop a child care center in the space available at Rapid’s central bus station downtown.
Yazeed Moore, the foundation’s senior program manager in Grand Rapids, pitched the concept at a Grand Rapids school board meeting this month, where he outlined the foundation’s vision for what a possible nursery in the bus station.
“Think of all that could mean, in terms of parents’ access to employment and transportation, and also knowing that the bus station serves many Grand Rapids public school students,” Moore told the commission. school during a work meeting on June 13. session. “So it seemed like a very natural fit, at first, to try to have these conversations about what if, and how, we might approach that.”
The facility could likely accommodate about 80 children, ranging from infants to pre-kindergartners, Moore told the school board. The foundation hopes to prioritize children from low-to-moderate income families, where there is the greatest need for affordable child care.
Accessible child care is critical to the success of a region’s economy, which is why the foundation seeks to expand child care opportunities in Grand Rapids, Moore told MLive/The Grand Rapids Press during a phone call.
Not only does childcare allow working parents to go to work while their young ones are cared for, it also prepares a child for successful learning later in life, he said.
Studies of Grand Rapids over the past few years have shown that there is a huge need for child care services in Grand Rapids, largely concentrated on the south side of the city, Moore said.
“We found that about two-thirds of the early childhood needs in Grand Rapids are in only one-third of the neighborhoods,” he told MLive.
The idea of a partnership with The Rapid is still in the exploratory phase, Moore reiterated. But the concept of putting a nursery inside a bus station, where parents can drop off their children when they take the bus to work, would be completely innovative and new, he said.
“If a parent needs support and services, but may not have reliable transportation to get to work, or to get their children to an educational opportunity, or to get their children to a appointment with the doctor, how can we eliminate these obstacles? ?” he said.
If the idea comes to fruition, the foundation would partner with GRPS to have the school district provide educational services to pre-kindergarten children at the center, Moore told the school board.
Members of the Grand Rapids School Board expressed preliminary interest in the idea at the June 13 meeting, but asked a few additional questions about the school district’s role in the collaboration. Syndic José Flores asked if there were any estimates on the costs of a rental contract with Rapid.
Bridget Cheney, the district’s philanthropic foundations liaison, said the idea was still in the very early stages of brainstorming, but said the Rapid had reassured that if there was a lease it would be a very small amount.
The proposed daycare would have ground floor space with three classrooms for approximately 24-30 infants and toddlers, including gross motor spaces and offices for staff of a community daycare provider undetermined, Moore said in her school blackboard presentation.
Upstairs, there would be three classrooms for about 48 pre-kindergarten students, he shared. There would also be a safe, visible and accessible outdoor play area for children of all ages.
Rapid spokeswoman Amanda Moore confirmed to MLive that the organization is considering a partnership with the WK Kellogg Foundation.
“Under the leadership of CEO Deb Prato, The Rapid builds innovative partnerships and services to meet community needs,” Moore said in an email. “This includes exploring an early childhood development center at Rapid Central Station and new Quick connect service, which expands access to affordable transportation in the on-demand areas of Kentwood and Walker.
“Rapid Central Station was designed with the possibility of mixed-use development. Project partners are exploring the potential for an early childhood development center at Rapid Central Station, as its location is accessible by bus routes from the six cities Rapid serves. »
Rapid CEO Deb Prato told MLive in a prepared statement that the organization is excited to explore a partnership with the WK Kellogg Foundation, although the idea is still in its infancy.
“Ultimately, transit is embedded into the fabric of our community, we are committed to exploring partnerships that make our community a more equitable and accessible region,” Prato said in a statement.
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