Holy Family Catholic Schools receives grant to expand childcare options in Dubuque

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 10:17 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - A $750,000 Iowa Child Care grant will soon allow staff at Holy Ghost Early Childhood, one of Holy Family Catholic Schools’ two childcare centers, to continue doing what program director Lis Ernst describes as a “really important job,” and then some.

”We are able to renovate around seven classrooms, so we can serve now about a hundred more students all the way from birth to five and then more school-age kids for non-school days,” Ernst said.

Holy Ghost currently serves around 175 children and is located in Dubuque’s North End side. Ernst mentioned that area in particular lacks childcare resources for families.

”We are super excited,” Ernst said. “We love sitting at the table, we love being part of the conversation and we are just eager to keep working through those solutions because we know families need us and we want to be able to be here for those families.”

Holy Family expects to complete the project by next spring and, after that, they must overcome their next challenge: finding the workforce. That is a challenge local business leaders, including Rick Dickinson with the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, say most childcare centers are dealing with.

”They have tremendous difficulties that are mostly pandemic driven,” Ernst said. “Since the pandemic, there has been a real struggle to have sufficient workforce to have the child-worker ratio necessary.”

Dickinson said this complicates the city’s efforts to provide affordable and available childcare to families, which is why he said community colleges like Northeast Iowa Community College are partnering with local organizations to develop training facilities for future childcare workers.

The IICC grant will help Holy Family to begin the first phase of a full-scale renovation of the Holy Ghost facility as it pursues additional grant funding to complete the project.

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