BULLHEAD CITY – Several dozen community leaders helped the Bullhead City School District (BCSD) ceremonially launch a childcare program for BCSD employees. Located on the Coyote Canyon School campus, the center was approved earlier this year by the BCSD governing board as a way to recruit and retain employees who are concerned about safe and affordable childcare.
Led by the Bullhead Area and Laughlin Chambers of Commerce, members of BCSD’s school board, along with Mayor Steve D’Amico and members of the Bullhead City Council, center staff and students cut ribbons for what some commented could be a model elsewhere.
Officially part of BCSD’s Early Learning Center, which includes a preschool program, the childcare operation opened shortly before the start of the 2023-2024 school year after receiving state certification.
“This is an amazing idea,” D’Amico said. “It is highly needed in our community. It’s the start of something I hope to see more of.”
The recruitment and retention of quality employees in the Tri-State area has been a challenge for many professions, according to Superintendent Carolyn Stewart. She noted that within days of the school board’s approval to proceed with the childcare center, every first-round slot was filled by new and returning BCSD employees. Stewart and child care center coordinator Michele Leyendecker expect the program to have more children enrolled later this year.
Leyendecker, an award-winning and highly-recognized local early child education specialist, helped launch BCSD’s program, joining the district from First Things First, Arizona’s early childhood agency. Leyendecker had previously overseen the early childhood program at Mohave High School for many years.
“This is a benefit to the staff, the district and the entire community,” said BCSD board president Melinda Sobraske. “When we discussed its feasibility as a board, we unanimously agreed that it’s a no-brainer. Employees from all six campuses can drop their children off before school, pick them up after school, and know that they’re safe – and learning – while the parents are working for the district.”
Dignitaries toured classrooms, interacted with children, and visited a new playground designed just for the childcare center.
Costs are slightly below local commercial childcare rates; the program is designed to break even. Employees pay via payroll deduction. Start-up expenses were covered mostly by grants.
Children are placed in classrooms for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The latter will also interact with other children from BCSD’s preschool program on the Coyote Canyon campus. Staff members must pass thorough criminal background checks from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.