Washington looks to open its first day care facility, before- and- after-school preschool program

The location on School Street in Washington where the new day care facility will be located.

The location on School Street in Washington where the new day care facility will be located.

Michelle Gorra / Contributed photo

WASHINGTON — Working parents with young children may soon not need to leave town to bring their infants to child care in the morning. The town aims to open an all day, year round day care facility.

“This is something that we’ve been hearing for awhile. People had been asking,” said Michelle Gorra, Washington’s economic development director. “We knew there are working parents out there that are scrambling for child care.”

The facility could be at the Region 12 Central Office, which is in the town’s old high school on School Street.

Washington has no child care for infants to age 3. Working parents either use family members or drive their children out of town, Gorra said.

To evaluate the need for a day care in town, Washington’s economic development committee conducted a survey in the fall called the Shepaug Valley Childcare Survey, which was distributed throughout the school district’s email and on social media.

In the survey, parents were asked to indicate how many children in their household fell into the infant to age 4 age group, if they currently attended a licensed out- of- home child care program, and if they would they consider enrolling in a daycare in Washington if it’s at a fee they’re able to pay.

“We had 106 responses within two weeks,” Gorra said. “It was remarkable.”

About half of those who responded to the survey (53 out of 106) live in Washington, while a strong response also came from Roxbury and Bridgewater residents, with New Milford and Litchfield residents also participating.

She said the committee was very surprised by the responses, which she said expressed a strong desire for a town-based day care and before- and- after-school care services.

“If everyone who indicated they were interested actually came, we would be be at double capacity — we would have a wait list,” Gorra said. “It was pretty shocking to us.”

Location, number of children, staff

The town won’t need to build a new facility, which has a target fall opening.

“This would be a renovation. The idea is to dovetail what we have. Region 12 Central Office is currently in a building in the town’s old high school on School Street, next door to Washington Primary School, which offers half-day preschool,” Gorra said.

If the day care facility gets approved, central office would relocate to the Shepaug campus and the newly available space would house the day care.

“We have identified space at Shepaug for a move that would put central office within the various parts of the building,” said Megan Bennett, superintendent of Regional School District 12, which includes Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater. “I think it is important that the schools help our communities grow and flourish. The central office move to Shepaug would help parents with young children in the region.”

The central office building was built in 1909 as a high school. It has been Region 12’s central administration office for over 30 years.

“We intend to use only the first floor of the building, which is 3,306 square feet,” Gorra said.

While the project wouldn’t involve any construction, the building would need to be brought to code for a child care. This would involve plumbing for hand washing sinks and child-sized toilets.

If the day care facility gets a green light, it would serve about 35 children during the school year, with possibly more in the summer months.

Additionally, the new facility would also house a before- and- after-school program for preschoolers, ages 3 to 4 — which the town currently doesn’t offer.

“That’s why this location is ideal. The preschoolers could just be walked right over to the program after their day ends,” Gorra said. “The idea is to dovetail with what we already have — not to replace our current preschool program, but to supplement it.”

Cost

Phase one of the project, which included a pre-design and feasibility study, was $3,500. This started in November and was paid for with a $2,000 grant from the Watts Fund Charity and $1,500 from the town’s Economic Development Committee.

Phase two includes a design and construction estimate of $8,400, which was approved at the Board of Finance meeting on Dec. 20.

The next step would be a town meeting, which has not yet been set.

If the town gives approval, the goal is for central office to relocate later in the year. Work on the building can then begin immediately after and staff can be secured for a fall opening.

“Offering childcare can make moving to and living in town easier and make Washington an attractive place for younger age groups,” Gorra said. “This is an important project designed to provide a much needed service to our area residents.”

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