Workforce Solutions Alamo has awarded more than $100,000 in grants to 10 child care centers across its 13-county region. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Reshaunda Dotson, director of Marbach Christian Daycare Center, envisioned making an outdoor classroom out of the church playground where the center is located to enrich learning opportunities for the kids in her care.

“Most of our children do not get a lot of time outside. They live in apartments, and their parents are working,” she said.

Dotson pitched the outdoor classroom to Workforce Solutions Alamo (WSA) as a way to enhance the children’s learning experience, as well as to counteract some of the strain put on by the coronavirus pandemic. Her pitch paid off, and the center landed one of $100,000 worth of grants made to 10 child care centers across WSA’s service region.

The one-time grants, provided through federal funds from the Department of Labor, will go toward specific project proposals submitted by the child care centers.

At Marbach Christian Daycare Center, pandemic-related restrictions on the center’s indoor capacity, as well as the reluctance of some parents to send their children to an indoor facility, have cut into the center’s already shoe-string budget. The outdoor classroom will allow it to take in a larger number of children and make up for some of the revenue the center has lost over the past year.

The grant from WSA has paid for new surfacing in the playground, such as grass, gravel, mulch, and dirt – as well as plants and tricycles, among other items. A new fence has helped provide the children privacy that the center previously could not afford, Dotson said.

“Where my center is located, we don’t have a lot of parents that make a lot of money,” Dotson said. More than half of the children at the center, next door to John Jay High School in far western San Antonio, come from families that receive child care subsidies through WSA, Dotson said.

WSA is one of 28 boards established by the state to connect employers to workers and to provide resources and information to people seeking job training and development.

Its mission considers child care a workforce issue, and WSA partners with over 500 licensed child care centers, covering 13,000 children in its 13-county region, in addition to providing child care subsidies to some families.

“We provide child care support so these families can go back to work, can go back to school, or can go to our training sessions,” said WSA spokeswoman Cristina J. Bazaldúa.

The grants, called the “Dream Proposal,” are part of that effort.

Another recipient of the WSA’s Dream Proposal grant is the World of Knowledge Early Learning Center on the Northwest Side. It used its grant, which it said totaled more than $18,000, to replace its furniture, as well as to purchase a new curriculum.

The World of Knowledge Early Learning Center on the Northwest Side used its grant to replace its furniture, pictured here, as well as to purchase a new curriculum.
The World of Knowledge Early Learning Center on the Northwest Side used its grant to replace its furniture, pictured here, as well as to purchase a new curriculum. Credit: Courtesy / Cristina Reyna

The new curriculum is research-based and includes STEM and emotional development lessons. It will help the center reach Texas Rising Star certification, which the state gives to child care providers that exceed minimum standards.

The new furniture, which includes tables, chairs, and cribs, replaced the worn-down furniture that the center had used since it opened six years ago, said Cristina Reyna, the center’s director.

“I just feel so blessed to be able to do this now,” Reyna said. “Parents are coming back to work, and they’re going to need quality child care.”

She praised WSA as a “one-stop resource” for the center.

Other child care centers receiving grants are Abiding Love Learning Center in Canyon Lake, Blessed Sacrament Academy Child Development Center, Brilliant Starts Learning Academy in New Braunfels, Happy Hands In-Home Christian Child Care in Seguin, Harper Community Preschool in Harper, Immersion Montessori, KidCare Learning Center, and Life Church Child Development Center.

Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham writes about business and technology. Contact him at waylon@sareport.org.