Childcare centers scramble for more staff as summer approaches

(ABC 6 News) – Working families across Minnesota are struggling to find their children a safe place to play as childcare centers report record low staffing. And child-care workers believe the future is not looking any brighter for those long summer days without school.

Elizabeth Kiefer’s granddaughter Nyah attends an after-school program with Rochester Public Schools.

"Nyah loves it. It’s really good for her being an only child," Kiefer said.

However due to staffing shortages, this summer she will have to find somewhere else to go while her mom is at work.

"There are so many people who need and really rely on that program. And it’s not available. Things are gonna come up this summer and it will be stressful at different times," Kiefer said.

The Kiefers are just one of many families scrambling to find childcare for the summer months.

Registration for Summer School Age Childcare with RPS opened on April 6 and closed quickly after. Spots were filled before the Kiefers and over 100 other families could apply. Now, they sit on a waiting list.

"We are about 67 staff short. We are working as fast as we can to add more staff. We really need community help with this," said Amy Eich, the executive director of community education with Rochester Public Schools.

School officials think summertime shortages will bleed into fall.

Kids Korner at Austin Public Schools usually serves around 450 children during the school year. For 2021 and 2022, however, they shrunk capacity to just over 200.

"It’s just kind of engrained now in our community that Kids Korner can meet the childcare needs. And we are not able to do that anymore. And I feel such a sense of responsibility," said Teri Wermager, the community education coordinator with Austin Public Schools.

Nyah will likely spend the summer at her grandma and grandpa’s. Kiefer and her husband recently retired and the pair was going to spend the summer traveling. Now they’ll stay in Rochester to support Nyah. Kiefer says she is happy to help out.

"It’ll go okay, but I do think she’ll miss that interaction with the kids," she said.

These shortages are statewide. The Children’s Center in Albert Lea also says they have also had to turn families away because of low staff.

Those interested in working in childcare can apply at the links below. Many centers allow employees as young as 16 to 18 years old.

Kids Korner – Austin

School Age Child Care – Rochester

Children’s Center – Albert Lea