When my son was born five years ago, my husband and I assumed that we couldn’t afford day care for him. We planned to manage childcare through to kindergarten ourselves, but the balance between full-time jobs and full-time parenting quickly proved untenable.

Enter the Northern Door Children’s Center (NDCC). It turned out that NDCC isn’t as expensive as I feared, and they offer on-demand scholarships. They do not require any deposits. They offer short contract periods so that families whose work varies according to the season can adjust their childcare accordingly.

We enrolled our son at the age of 13 months. He recently completed NDCC’s 4K program where he was educated, challenged, and loved by NDCC’s notable staff. He likes to go to “school” every day. NDCC was a godsend for our family.

Theoretically, I enthusiastically support the Gibraltar School District’s proposal to create a public 4K program in Gibraltar. In practice, however, NDCC (like most early childhood education centers) relies on 4K incomes to offset the cost of caring for younger children. To my understanding, a free 4K program in Gibraltar would potentially irreparably threaten NDCC’s delicate financial balance, as did the Sturgeon Bay public 4K program for the Barker Center.

Would I have liked a free 4K option for my son? Necessarily. But no amount of free 4K could outweigh the life changing benefits of NDCC for the rest of our son’s life before he turned four.

We don’t appreciate early childhood education or its heroic practitioners in this country nearly enough, and our system needs big changes. Until then, we have to work within the system that we have. If the school board’s goal is to make life easier for families with preschoolers, a 4K program without an NDCC is counterproductive.

So I urge the Gibraltar Schools Board not to offer a 4K option or, if it does, to work with NDCC to make Door County’s early childhood education work well for everyone, not just families of four year olds. To make it to 4K, you’ll need to go through ages zero through three first.

Katie Dahl

Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

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