(Update: adding video, comments from Bend Chamber of Commerce)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) –The Little Kits Early Learning Program, a new child care program planned in Bend, is one step closer to becoming a reality.
State Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, announced Monday that $1 million of funding from the American Rescue Plan will be used toward creating the student and parent child care program for OSU-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College students and staff.
Katy Brooks, president of the Bend Chamber of Commerce, says child care is a big issue, especially in adults trying to return to school.
"Before the pandemic started, only one in three children ages infant through 3 years old had a place to go” locally, Brooks said Tuesday.
She added that students at COCC and OSU-Cascades in child development-related courses will be able to apply for paid apprenticeships with the child care program. They will work with the children, which Brooks says will be beneficial to the students.
"It provides a great opportunity for those who are looking to get into child care as a career to find a place to go do that,” Brooks said.
Elizabeth Banderas is an OSU-Cascades student and vice president for the student government. She is also a mother of three children.
When the pandemic hit and day cares were closing, she says she had no choice but to quit her job, in order to stay home with her family.
But Banderas was able to take part in Little Beavs, an impromptu child care program that was set up by OSU-Cascades during the pandemic to help students with children continue attending college.
"For this specific classroom, it was right across from the child care center," Banderas said. "So if there was an emergency or I needed to take them out because we were done for the day, I was right across the hall, so it was really easy.”
With new funding, the Little Beavs program will be able to expand services (to be named Little Kits, for the young of both beavers and cougars), and will be available to students and faculty at both OSU-Cascades and COCC, with any remaining openings available to the public.
At least to start, it will be housed in modular buildings on the OSU-Cascades campus.
"If we are able to receive grants to help support a child care on campus for staff and students, I think we would see an increase in enrollment for students,” Banderas said.
Organizers are still seeking additional funding from Deschutes County to help with start-up costs.