Early childhood education center to open in Warner


Charlie Albano knows the childcare struggle in Warner from both his personal and professional experience. He had to make childcare choices for his own kids and in a small town like Warner, he heard neighbors talk about the same challenges as well. 

He also saw the issue from a policy standpoint when he was Bureau Chief for Maternal and Child Health for the state, and from an economic one while working with the Community Development Finance Authority. 

Now, a new Early Childhood Education Center is set to open in Warner in October through the Boys and Girls Club of Central New Hampshire. 

Its opening is a culmination of efforts from Albano – a resident of Warner since 1974 – who spearheaded the non-profit opening an additional site in town.

Albano first heard rumblings of the need for childcare two years ago, he said. As chair of the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee – a small committee appointed by the town Board of Selectman – their goal is to help promote economic development in the small rural town. 

Wait lists were long and costs were high. But Albano wanted to quantify the need in the town of just about 3,000 residents. 

With the help of the state’s central regional planning commission, the Economic Development Advisory Committee issued a childcare questionnaire report in November 2021. 

Only a small portion of residents responded – 139 total or 6% of the town’s population – but their answers confirmed Albano’s query, with 72.4% of participants indicating a need for affordable childcare for preschool-aged children. 

With these numbers, Albano contacted Chris Emond, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, with a pitch for an early childhood education center. 

“I  knew that he was the right person to call because of the work they’ve done in the region,” Albano said. 

The Boys and Girls Club already operates a before and after school program and summer camp out of the elementary school in Warner. This made the prospect of starting an early childhood education center easier, said Emond. 

The center, which is set to open in October, will be housed in the town’s community center, in a room where Head Start used to have early childhood care. 

However, Head Start, which provides free programming to promote school readiness for infants and toddlers who are 100% below the poverty line, was less of a need in the increasingly middle-class town.

The average median household income in Warner is $65,500 according to Census data. To be at 100% of the federal poverty guidelines for a family of four, the income threshold is $27,750. 

The need simply wasn’t there anymore, said Albano. The Boys and Girls Club can fill the gap. 

Hiring a director and finding a space were the easy parts, said Emond. The Head Start vacancy provided classroom and playground space suitable for children. The center will have two classrooms, as well as access to a kitchen area and playground. 

A current Boys and Girls Club employee who lives in a neighboring town will be the director of the center.

“The toughest thing is, and there’s no surprise here and I’ve told Charlie from the beginning, is finding the staff,” he said. 

With a center director in place, they are in the midst of interviewing candidates. The challenge is if prospective parents want to meet the center staff before enrolling, they haven’t been hired yet. 

This doesn’t phase Emond or Albano, though, who are confident there will be a demand for enrollment when the center doors open. 

“It’s the least of my concerns,” said Emond. “It’s almost a concern reversed, in that once we’re there, it’s going to go so fast, that we’ll have a waiting list.”

With waiting lists for other childcare services, the center will bring expanded coverage to an area where there is high demand and unattainable costs. 

The average cost of childcare in New Hampshire for an infant is $1,150 per month. Care for a toddler costs just under $950, meaning if a family has two children in childcare they could pay up to $24,000 a year for care. 

At the Boys and Girls Club, the cost for infant care will be $300 per week and care for a toddler will cost $275. 

There is state assistance to help offset these costs, though, said Edmond. 

Employees will be paid $18 an hour with access to full benefits. They also can enroll their children at the center for free. 

“We wanted to make sure that whoever we brought in however we started the program actually paid a living wage,” said Albano. 

Albano hopes that increased childcare will in turn promote more business in the small town. 

“We’ve had two or three businesses, and we’ve heard this at public hearings, saying we’ve got people that want to work with them but they’ve got kids, and they don’t have any childcare,” he said. “We’re ready to take that spot.”

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