DETROIT (AP) — Krista McClure was 41 weeks pregnant in 2012 when she was offered a job as an administrative assistant at a soon-to-open charter school in northwest Detroit.
The job offer was awesome, McClure said, but there was an elephant in the room: What about maternity leave and most importantly how would she go about childcare? All of the best options in Detroit have an extensive waiting list. McClure hadn’t signed up in time. She knew watching her daughter was going to have to somehow align with the work.
Fortunately, for McClure, her boss, Kyle Smitley of Detroit Achievement Academy, was open to working around her needs. After a couple of weeks of maternity leave, McClure began work. By her side? Her newborn Giselle.
This duality of work and childcare is the centerpiece of the 29-year-old’s newest business venture, the Detroit Parent Collective, a co-working space, and cooperative preschool that recently opened in the northwest neighborhood of Bagley.
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Its goal is to provide a warm and calming space for parents to get their work done while ensuring excellent childcare and early education options, the Detroit Free Press reported. At the heart of the business venture is the goal of empowering parents — much like McClure says Smitely empowered her — to take control of their narrative and life.
“What would be amazing would be if when families see quality, feel quality and smell quality here, that wherever they go they’re demanding the same thing,” said McClure. “That’s my biggest hope is that families are starting to drive that needle of what quality looks like, what materials the classroom should have, the warmth, the comfort of the building, that sort of thing.”
Access to quality childcare has been a major issue for Detroit.
According to a 2015 study by IFF, the city would need roughly 23,500 additional seats in licensed child care providers in order to match the needs of all the kids in the city between the ages of birth to 5-year-old.
With this need not met — coupled with the rising cost of childcare — many women are being forced to opt out of the workforce in order to take care of their children. A Crain’s Detroit Business analysis, for example, found that providing more affordable options for child care would boost the number of women in the workforce by 2 percent — a total of about 43,000 women.
Addressing these issues became paramount for McClure who wanted to both support women, while also providing a space for children to grow and learn.
The goal came from McClure’s own experience with Smitely, but also — prior to that job — recognizing moments of growth in her own life as both a student, worker, and mother.
McClure said her own childhood was sprinkled with difficult and trying experiences. After moving to Beverly Hills with her mother as a teen, McClure enrolled in Birmingham Public Schools but dropped out soon after. As a biracial teen, she felt isolated in the predominantly white community.
With time on her hands and not a lot of guidance, McClure began spending her time in Detroit. At the age of 14, she was sexually assaulted in the city — an incident that became a real turning point for her. She tuned out and, as she puts it, took to the “street life.”
It wasn’t until 2006 when she became pregnant with her son Carnieche that something snapped for her.
“In that moment I knew, ‘Wow, I have a child on the way at 18 years old,” she said. “I really need to set my life up so that I could be the best parent, the best mother for him.”
McClure said she did everything she could to put her son first and to make sure he had the best opportunities possible. She began working as a checkout person at Meijer and enrolled her son in ChildTime a child care center in the Renaissance Center that has been touted as one of the premier options.
“I sacrificed a lot for him to be there,” she said.
Around this time she met her fiance and the two decided to move to Seattle, with Carnieche, It was there that McClure began to recognize and see the importance of family-centered workspaces.
“There are these resources available in a very upswing city and state where I thought to myself, ‘Man Detroit could really use this,'” she said. “A lot of my observations, note-taking took place in Seattle.”
Returning Detroit in 2011, McClure started working in the education arena. With just a GED she got certified to work in schools. This led to various jobs as a paraprofessional and behavioral specialist, before she got the job with Smitely and later had stints at Excellent Schools Detroit and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.
Through it all, she made sure she could maintain a balance where she was both working and taking care of her kids.
In 2016, she decided to finally take the leap and open up her own space.
Research has shown that quality early education programs and child care provide long-term, positive educational outcomes and specifically so for low-income children, according to the 2015 IFF report on Detroit.
The Detroit Parent Collective, located across from Marygrove College on McNichols, aims to do this.
The childcare program is based on a Montessori curriculum, with a focus on self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. McClure’s aunt Jann Hoge, a professor at Marygrove, will be the master teacher for the pre-school, which runs Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30 to 4 p.m. The co-working space is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a guarantee of on-site child care for at least two hours.
Starting Tuesday and running through Dec. 14 McClure is offering a free six-week pilot program at the pre-school. After that, the cost is $80 per week for each child. The monthly fee for a co-working space is $160. Scholarship money is also available for families who need help paying.
Currently, there are six parents who are using the space — three stay-at-home moms, a professor at Eastern Michigan University, a court bailiff and a registered nurse.
“It’s been really challenging as a small business owner,” McClure said. “I’m thinking ‘this is so innovative, I’m going to have a slew of people coming through my doors.’ It’s not quite been that way.”
Still, McClure is hoping to grow the space organically by focusing on quality over quantity, and specifically the needs of her clients.
“I know I want this to be sustainable and be able to continue to grow,” she said. “I’ve had so many people say we’ll send you so much money or we’ll be a partner with you in your business venture, but I knew that if I wanted to be true to what folks are asking for in the community I had to do it alone, just because I know my intention, I know my heart, I know the mission of what I saw for this space based off folks in the community, and I didn’t want to have any other influences that could change that thinking.”
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com