ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – As waiting lists for Abilene daycares reach two years at some facilities, Wylie ISD is taking initiative to create its own staff daycare service for the 2023-2024 school year.

For Kayla Barnes, she calls her third grade classroom home nearly 182 days out of the year, teaching math to her 64 students each day.

However, at home, she is the mother to two young daughters, one and three years old.

“I was lucky enough to get a daycare position for both of them because I’ve worked at their daycare for years,” Barnes said, “before teaching, and still during school break.” 

When she first found out she was pregnant, Barnes said she began calling daycares across town, hoping to find herself in a position to get her young girls taken care of while she is in the classroom. She was able to get them in, avoiding many of the long waitlists and even receiving an employee discount from the daycare where she currently works, but those services still cost her an arm and a leg at the end of every month.

“When half of my paycheck goes to daycare a month, it’s hard,” revealed Barnes. “It’s really hard, but we make it work.” 

Starting in the summer of 2023, Wylie ISD said it is planning on initiating the ‘Pup Academy,’ an on-site staff daycare service in the Wylie Early Childhood Center.

A plan nearly a year to the day in the making, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources at Wylie ISD, Tommy Vaughn, said as staffing shortages began to be more prominent, they needed to look for creative ways to recruit new teachers, but also take care of the current staff they have.

“We’ve lost at least one individual because of this issue in a pretty hard to fill position, so we decided to start pursuing this,” Vaughn explained.

The first of the Abilene major schools to have their own staff daycare, Vaughn said he expects other schools and businesses to follow suit in the near future. He said he hopes the Pup Academy will help take the financial and emotional burden off his staff, as well.

“Our workforce is 82% female, and you know, mommas want their babies taken care of, and they like to be close to their babies,” said Vaughn.

Vaughn, along with Wylie ISD Superintendent Joey Light, held an all-staff interest meeting for the ‘Pup Academy’ at Tuesday afternoon, introducing the name, as well as answering questions from staff members.

The most asked questions at the meeting: Where, how much will it cost, and when will it be open?

Vaughn answered, saying he hopes the maximum cost would be roughly $500 per month per child, and would be paid out over 12 months. He said he hopes it can be less than $500, but will have to see as they continue to work out the final details.

The Pup Academy will also only be open the 182 days Wylie ISD requires their teachers and aids to be on campus. That means the five required days during the summer, the daycare won’t be open.

In a statement released by Wylie ISD, the school will begin receiving applications for the Pup Academy starting March 1.

Once Health and Human Services approves all of Wylie’s paperwork and does a thorough walkthrough and inspection of the building, Vaughn said the Pup Academy should officially open August 1.