Joni Helton wears several hats in this community, and at least three of them pertain to educating Davis County’s children.
A kindergarten teacher who retired from the Davis County Schools in 2019, she continues to pour her energy into meeting the educational and developmental needs of Davis County kids by serving as a preschool teacher at Wigwam Daycare and Preschool, President of the Davis County Day Care Board, and a member of the Davis County Community School Board.
“I believe in kids and we need to invest in our little people,” she said.
One of Helton’s greatest challenges right now is finding a way to secure the funding needed to keep Davis County Day Care operating.
Davis County has two major day care facilities — Wigwam Day Care and Preschool and Davis County Day Care and Preschool, and neither day care can absorb the other’s children, Helton says.
The challenge in keeping both facilities open was exacerbated in 2018 when Davis County Day Care was flooded after a sewer line was punctured during the installation of fiber optic cable. Litigation in that case is just now coming to a close.
That incident resulted in a several month closure and severe financial setbacks for the facility, which needed operating funds plus $22,000 annually to repay the USDA loan secured in 2005 when the building was constructed.
Unfortunately, after the facility was flooded, some families found other sources for childcare during the time of uncertainty and the Davis County Schools were forced to make room at Davis County Elementary for two classes of preschoolers that had been housed at DC Day Care.
With the exodus of those students, Davis County Day Care lost a hefty sum in rental fees from the Davis County Schools as well as suffering a loss in fees due to decreased enrollment.
This month, Helton and DC Day Care Director Lisa Collier are visiting various governmental entities and organizations to ask for funding assistance to keep the day care open.
Helton and Collier presented a funding request to the Bloomfield City Council Feb. 6 asking for assistance with utility bills. (The council’s response can be found in the adjacent article on this page.)
Monday morning Helton and Collier made the same request of the Davis County Supervisors.
Ron Bride, Chairman of the Supervisors, said Monday evening, “The amount of money they need is significant, and I believe we’ll try to do something positive for the center, but no decision was finalized since approval of financial support was not specified on the agenda.”
Helton was grateful for the supervisors’ initial reaction, and will be speaking with the Davis County Development Corporation Tuesday.
Bloomfield’s new Development Director, Tammy Roberts, has also begun to research possible grant funding for the facility.
Helton said the day care must submit a plan to USDA in 30 days. One of the options is to become current by making a payment of $44,000 for payments previously missed and submit $22,000 per year from here on.
Helton said in day care’s early years the city made the loan payments for the facility and City Councilman Jerry Kincart served on the Day Care Board to strengthen the relationship between the city and the day care.
In recent years prior to the 2018 flooding incident, rental for the preschool rooms funded loan payments. “I told Dan Maeder, ‘you need us and we need you.’” Helton remarked. “By renting those rooms to the Davis County Schools’ Preschool program, that helped us have a quality day care program.”
Reflecting on a city council suggestion that DC Day Care raise their rates, Helton said, “If we raise rates, we’ll lose families and have to cut staff. We’ll also find fewer families will want to move to Davis County because of the lack of affordable day care.”
Helton’s passion for serving kids goes beyond the four walls of Davis County Daycare. She sees a need to look at the county’s three-year-old population and provide as much learning as possible outside the home.
“Right now, we have 60 three-year-olds enrolled in Davis County Day Care, Wigwam, Head Start, and Rainbows and Friends Preschool. I believe there are about 30 more kids in the community who have no access to learning outside the home who need preparation for starting school.”
To help fulfill that need, Helton said a Parent Information Open House is planned at the Mutchler Center on Feb. 27 from 6-7 p.m. for parents of three- and four-year-old students. The purpose of the open house is to disseminate information on the developmental and educational resources that are available for preschool children.
Helton challenges all entities involved in educating and caring for children to make connections with families every time a baby is born. “We need to make connections to build trust and allow parents to rely on those entities when there is a need,” she said.
“When a parent is parented poorly, that parent tends to parent poorly. We have to break that cycle. We have to do what’s right for kids.
“We have to teach those who need the skills to become better parents so these little people will do a better job of parenting when they become parents.
“I see a lot of people who are on their phones and their kids don’t learn how to carry on a conversation. It’s all about building relationships with those little people so they love you and you can get them to do what they need to do.”
Helton said she is even willing to knock on doors to let parents know what resources are out there. “I just need to know which doors to knock on,” she said.
“I love your kid and I want what’s best for your kid,” she said. “But we can’t do it ourselves. We need the support of the community. The more people we can get involved, the better.”