Learning Grove expands operations to provide more childcare options in the Tri-State

Learning Grove expands operations to provide more childcare options in the Tri-State
Updated: Jan. 11, 2021 at 8:21 AM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A business dedicated to helping kids find a path to a bright future will soon be able to provide care to even more children in the Tri-State.

Learning Grove is addressing a major need for more childcare in the Sharonville area by opening a new center at Scarlet Oaks on Great Oaks Career campuses.

Operating at 50% capacity, Learning Grove hopes to increase class sizes by the summer.

“We’re serving about 700 right now combined for both Ohio and Kentucky,” Learning Grove CEO Shannon Starkey-Taylor said. “The states have allowed us to increase some of our group sizes, but quite frankly, we weren’t sure what combinations were the success metrics to keep our children safe. So, we’ve gradually increased our group sizes. We are budgeting, just to get down to brass tax, the first six months of this year to remain at pretty low ratios, and then we hope the vaccines get out and get distributed, and by the second half of the year, we’ll be inching back to our full capacity.”

As for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Starkey-Taylor says a lot of people in the child care industry personally feel childcare providers should be prioritized for the vaccine on a higher tier saying childcare is “a workforce solution.”

Phase 1B of vaccine distribution in both Kentucky and Ohio includes school personnel, but only for K-12.

“We, unlike our really good partners and colleagues in K-12, we can’t go virtual with infants and toddlers,” Starkey-Taylor adds. “They don’t learn that way and they can’t learn that way. If you want something funny, try to go virtual with that age group, and see that it doesn’t work. Parents actually have to get to work, so staying at home and flipping up their laptops won’t really work for us. Now we’re just fighting. Now we’re fighting to get in the same prioritization as K-12. So that’s a little frustrating, but what Groundwork Ohio is suggesting, we support. That we are at the same tier as K-12 and that it’s voluntary. Learning Grove in and of itself has not set a policy about what we’ll do.”

In the meantime, Learning Grove is excited about the $900 billion federal stimulus passed last month, which includes $10 billion for childcare. Ohio will receive $336 million for childcare assistance and Kentucky will receive $192 million.

“We’re thrilled that it came to fruition,” Starkey-Taylor notes. “It’s a generous relief package, but I’ll also say Groundwork Ohio and other advocates advocated for a higher relief bill, but we understand what had to be done to get it passed.”

Meanwhile, Learning Grove continues to serve about 700 children combined between Ohio and Kentucky and is optimistic about the progress at Learning Grove Centers.

Starkey-Taylor says the rate of infection from COVID-19 is very low, almost zero, at Learning Grove. She adds that some children have been really thriving with smaller group sizes.

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