Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News

Wendy Bart, representing the YMCA, signs a lease for a lot on the Port Townsend School property to be used as a Jefferson County Early Learning and Family Support Center at a signing on Thursday at the administration office of Port Townsend School District. School superintendent, Linda Rosenbury, center front, had just affixed her signature to the lease. Also on hand were 4 year old Azan Luqman, with his parents behind him, Asif Luqman and Shawnisa Francis. Behind Bart are school board directors John Nowak and Jennifer James-Wilson, Dr. Molly Parker, representing Jefferson Healthcare, Alex Hankle, 7 week old Juniper, Nicole Hankle and Jefferson County supervisor Kate Dean.

YMCA, Port Townsend School District sign lease for daycare

Construction to start next year

PORT TOWNSEND — Officials with the Olympic Peninsula YMCA and the Port Townsend School District have signed a lease agreement for property on the high school campus that will be the site of a daycare and family support center constructed and operated by the YMCA.

The YMCA plans to build its 4,000-square-foot facility on a 1.6-acre site located on the southeast corner of the Port Townsend High School campus bordering Harrison and Blaine streets. The cost is estimated at $2.9 million.

The majority of construction will start in 2024 with a target completion date in 2025.

The project is a partnership among the YMCA, the school district, Jefferson Healthcare, Jefferson County, the City of Port Townsend and Peninsula College. The YMCA will pay $1 a year in rent on the 20-year lease.

“Everyone came together to do something to support kids in our community, to support working families and to provide quality affordable childcare so people can go to work with a peace of mind that their kids are in a great place,” Port Townsend School District Superintendent Linda Rosenbury said.

The Port Townsend project has received criticism from some residents who live near the high school. They have said that, while they support efforts to solve Port Townsend’s lack of daycare options, the high school campus is an unsuitable location because of problems related to traffic congestion, disregard of speed limits and inadequate parking.

The YMCA will conduct a community meeting at 6 p.m. April 19 at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St., Port Townsend, to explain the scope of the project and share drafts of the latest design concepts. Questions can be directed to info@ olympicpeninsulaymca.org.

Thursday’s signing was originally scheduled to occur in December, but it was delayed while the YMCA and the school district ironed out the requirements of the project’s different funding streams.

According to a 2021 Child Care Needs Assessment published by the YMCA, Jefferson Healthcare and Peninsula College, Jefferson County lacks adequate affordable childcare.

The study said that meeting demand is hindered by rigorous state licensing requirements, low pay for employees and high costs for parents.

“Workforce is the driver of economic recovery,” said Wendy Bart, executive director of Olympic Peninsula YMCA.

That recovery is compromised, Bart said, when working parents must drive long distances to access daycare, and facilities have limited operating hours and are expensive.

“Like all of our services,” Bart said, “the daycare will be open to everyone and have a sliding fee scale.”

The YMCA daycare will accommodate 42 children from 6 months to 5 years old; school district employees have priority enrollment, as well as wait list priority when an opening occurs.

A staff of family resource navigators will be available to aid families in accessing support services, from housing to mental health to food assistance.

A commercial kitchen will prepare meals for students and families when school is out of session and for distribution throughout Jefferson County.

Information about the project can be found at tinyurl.com/3hj645yx.

Doug Ross, who is chair of the Port Townsend School Board, said projects like the early childhood and family resource center can only be accomplished when community organizations join forces to find solutions.

Even so, he said, demand for services is constantly growing.

“The need is much larger,” Ross said. “Let’s get this going and make sure that we can make it happen and see what’s next.”

Funding for the project comes through a mix of sources.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray helped secure $1.450 million in USDA funding, a grant of $1 million came from the state Department of Commerce’s Early Learning Facility Program, Jefferson County contributed $290,000 in ARPA funding and Jefferson Healthcare contributed $50,000.

“We were really excited about the direct congressional grant through Patty Murray’s office that was confirmed this winter,” said Molly Parker, population health chief medical officer at Jefferson Healthcare. “We are doing a second cost estimate right now.”

The YMCA is also planning to construct a new daycare facility next to its Port Angeles branch on the same timeline. It hired a project manager last summer to oversee both projects.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@soundpublishing.com.

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