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Labor shortage forcing Anchorage youth organization to offer fewer childcare programs at local schools this year

A school in the Anchorage School District.
A school in the Anchorage School District.(none)
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 4:59 PM AKDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2021 at 5:56 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Parents looking for childcare this fall aren’t alone, especially if they’ve relied on Camp Fire Alaska programs for before and after school care in the past.

The nonprofit organization that offers summer camps, childcare and more is cutting back on the number of schools in Anchorage where their programs will be offered in the fall, including many that have operated for years.

“Camp Fire is going to be opening up 12 before-and after-school program sites when school starts up in August,” said Camp Fire Alaska CEO Barbara Dubovich.

A fact sheet from Camp Fire shows there were 30 school program sites offered pre-pandemic in the 2019-2020 school year. The organization retained seven of last year’s sites, added two new sites in Anchorage and added three in Eagle River.

Dubovich estimated the number of children served could drop from more than 1,000 to just 350. The reason is one that many businesses are facing.

“One of the main reasons we are not able to open more programs is we are not able to recruit and hire more staff,” Dubovich said, calling it their biggest challenge.

She advises parents to go to the Camp Fire website to see if a program will be offered at their school this fall, and likely get on a waiting list if it is. They can also find out about jobs at the website.

Camp Fire retains the option to re-open more of its 30 sites in the future if they can be staffed.

But the problem isn’t new, according to Stephanie Berglund, CEO of Thread, a nonprofit that connects Alaskans with childcare. She said Anchorage has always had an issue with the availability of quality childcare.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has just made that worse,” Berglund said. “We saw a lot of families leave their childcare situations and now they’re looking to move back.”

But without the workforce, that may prove difficult. Berglund said many childcare programs in Anchorage are operating but only a few have new spots available.

Parents who need help finding care can go to the Thread website. Berglund said there’s help available for families who are looking for care assistance as well as other resources.

Copyright 2021 KTUU. All rights reserved.

Clarification: This article and its headline have been updated to clarify that Camp Fire Alaska is not opening many of its 30 program sites, but is not permanently closing them and could reopen more in the future if staffing allows.