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Sandy city staff look to change codes to facilitateexpansion of childcare services

PMG PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN  - As a mother with a background in early childhood education, City Councilor Bethany Shultz said she recognized the need for childcare before it arose as a bigger issue last year. The word is out about Sandy's need for childcare opportunities, and numerous organizations and agencies have responded. In November 2019, the Clackamas Workforce Partnership (CWP) met with Sandy city officials and councilors to discuss possible solutions to Sandy's status as a "childcare desert."

Since then, city staff has been looking at how code can be changed and incentives created to encourage new or expanded childcare services in the city.

Besides city and CCWP representatives, last Friday, Jan. 31, several members of neighboring city governments, childcare providers from Sandy and beyond, Oregon Trail School District administrators, the Sandy Area Chamber Executive Director and even House District 52 Rep. Anna Williams (D-Hood River) came together to discuss the next steps to addressing the childcare crisis.

According to statistics from the Partnership, Sandy only has availability to enroll six children in the infant-to-toddler age range per year. That's overall, including home-based and commercial centers.

There is also a total of 162 spots for preschool-aged children with 1,400 children under the age of 5 on record living in Sandy.

In Clackamas County, 13% of 0-2-year-olds have access to a slot in a child care facility. Across the state, there are 8 infants and toddlers for every infant/toddler slot and 3 preschool age children for every preschool-age slot.

In Clackamas County, Sandy is one of the top five communities experiencing a definite need for childcare, accompanied by Molalla, Canby, Oregon City and Milwaukie.

"Sandy has been a leader in this conversation," said CWP Director Bridget Dazey.

"I'm really excited about the momentum gained from (Friday's) meeting," Sandy City Councilor Bethany Shultz said in an email. "We have so many great minds that are willing and able to work together. I am feeling confident that together, along with the voices of anyone else passionate about this project, we will find solutions to this childcare crisis for our community members."

Of the handful of childcare providers — prospective and experienced — who attended the meeting on Jan. 31, several expressed interest in expanding services if facilitated by the city and a few signed up to be on committees looking at how Sandy could help grow its childcare offerings.

PMG PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN  - Several childcare providers, city staff and councilors, county staff members, school district representatives and more came together Jan. 31 to discuss solutions for the lack of childcare in Sandy. Rep. Williams noted that childcare would be a priority for her in the 2021 legislative session.

"I think childcare is an issue across the state and each region is trying to tackle it in their own way," Williams said. "I plan to make childcare a top priority in the next long session." She added that by coming to meetings like Friday's in Sandy, she's "trying to find where good work is going on to build on later."

The Sandy City Council has also listed addressing the childcare crisis as one of its goals for 2020.

"I've been so impressed at the level of collaboration between our council and our staff on this issue," Shultz added. "I know that we will continue with positive and engaging discussions throughout this process."

"City Council and staff are committed to removing municipal code barriers and creating financial incentive programs for childcare providers," said Sandy City Development Services Director Kelly O'Neill. "Modifying the city parking standards is the first step in the process of removing code barriers. Proposed parking code modifications will reduce off-street parking requirements for childcare facilities. These off-street parking reductions will allow for existing buildings and small undeveloped lots to more easily accommodate childcare facilities. The parking reductions will also reduce start-up costs and ongoing maintenance expenses related to parking surfaces."

City staff will propose parking code modifications, including those changes affecting childcare facilities, to the Planning Commission on Feb. 24.


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