Daycare centers’ enrollment spikes as unemployment drops |

Daycare centers’ enrollment spikes as unemployment drops

Rob Sabo

Enrollment at child daycare and preschool centers is picking up as the unemployment rate in the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area continues to decline.

April’s 7 percent unemployment rate in the Truckee Meadows is in stark contrast to four years earlier, when it stood at 14.4 percent. As the region’s economy improves, more working parents are putting their kids back in daycare.

Petra Wick, preschool director for Just Kidding Learning Center on Eagle Canyon Drive in Spanish Springs, says her classrooms are almost completely full and she now has a waiting list for some classes. Two years earlier, though, enrollment at Just Kidding was running just over 50 percent.

“Over the last year or so we have been seeing an increase,” says Wick who has been with Just Kidding since the center opened in 2002. “Now, considering the time of year, my enrollment is where it was when we first opened, which is close to 100 percent.”

Just Kidding has about 180 kids enrolled in its daycare programs. The center employs 27 and is searching for additional staff.

Enrollment typically dips at Just Kidding Learning Center in the summertime, Wick says, because a large percentage of working parents are teachers at nearby schools and pull their kids out of daycare during the summer break. Enrollment often declines as much as 50 percent, Wick says, but this year Just Kidding isn’t expecting a mass exodus because many parents have indicated they’ll be working summer jobs for Washoe County School District.

“I expect to be about 90 percent enrollment,” she says.

Other centers didn’t see much of a decline in their child enrollment despite the record unemployment rates. Liz Wright, owner of Imagination Station on Vista Boulevard and Iratcabal Drive in Sparks, says enrollment stayed steady over the past few years. Imagination Station averages 110 kids on a daily basis.

Staff at the center are giving more tours to prospective parents as the economy heats up, Wright notes.

“We didn’t have a lot of parents in this area that were affected by the recession,” she says, “but as the economy has come back we have noticed a lot more people looking for daycare.”

Imagination Station takes kids from as young as six weeks through age 7 in its before-and-after-school program. Employment at the center also has stayed steady, averaging between 37 and 40 employees. Imagination Station employs a great number of undergrads from University of Nevada, Reno, Wright says, because work schedules can be designed around school schedules.

One trend Wright has seen, though, is an increase in new moms seeking infant care as they head back to work — the center currently has a waiting list for its infant-care program.

“There are a lot of new moms coming in,” Wright says.

ArDean Alexander, business manager at Pebbles Preschool, says enrollment typically varies by season. The center has about 125 kids enrolled in its program, but enrollment usually dips in the summer as grandparents take kids for the summer or parents who are teachers pull their kids from daycare services.

Marianna Ashley, longtime director of Kids Club Learning Center on Richards Way in Sparks, says her enrollment began spiking in April after several years of declines.

Many of her parents had been balancing finances versus daycare needs the past few years and had been relying on friends and family for their daycare needs, Alexanders says. She’s also seen an influx of kids enrolled in the center who have been placed with legal guardians who are working full time.

Kids Club Learning Center has about 34 full and part-time kids enrolled in its infant through elementary school daycare programs. Alexander has seen enrollment fluctuations in her more than decade of running the center, but the past few years have been difficult, she says.

“This one has been harder to get back up on our feet; the staff have not had raises in long time.”