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School Boards Association Honors Little Lovebugs Program At PVCS

Pine Valley Central School District accepted a “Champions of Change” award in the elementary library recently. Pictured, front row from left, are Business Official Nicole VerHagen, high school Principal Kourtney Almeida, elementary Principal Brandi Meacham; Little Love Bugs representatives Monica Kelley, supervisor, and Heather Mohawk, owner; BOE members Rose Kruszka and Christie Lokietek. Back row, from left, are Bryna Moritz, deputy superintendent of Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES; student BOE member Arryanna Bardo, BOE President Jeff Chase, BOE member Will Pekrul, BOE Vice President Jeff Howard, Superintendent Shanda DuClon, NYSSBA representative Kurt Gustafson, BOE members Ang Astry and Larry Zollinger, and Special Education Director Carrie Davenport.

SOUTH DAYTON – Pine Valley Central School District was singled out via the New York School Boards Association’s “Champions of Change” award for its Little Lovebugs Daycare Center during a ceremony held in the elementary library on Thursday, May 9, 2024.

NYSSBA representative Kurt Gustafson, also a member of the Board of Education at Southwestern Central School District, presented the award to the Pine Valley BOE members, district administration, and the staff of Little Lovebugs.

“Pine Valley is a Champion of Change. Its early childcare program is unique and innovative and it benefits all,” said Gustafson. “It is a perfect collaboration. It met every single criteria for this award.”

PVCS partnered with Little Love Bugs in 2023 to offer high-quality infant and toddler care to the community with the goal of ensuring the needs of the families in the community are met.

Children ages six weeks to 36 months are eligible to attend the center at Pine Valley Elementary. Little Love Bugs is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It follows the district’s calendar but is open during summer break.

“Pine Valley saw families struggling without affordable childcare options available to them,” says Superintendent Shanda Duclon, who joined the district in January 2024. “I’m pleased to share that as of Memorial Day weekend, our infant and toddler rooms will be at capacity. Having childcare available is also a draw for potential employees and is a critical part of our recruitment process. We also continue to see success with early intervention. I’m pleased that our Board of Education continues to support our efforts in this area.”

Pine Valley Elementary School Principal Brandi Meacham, who worked with Moritz on the project, noted the need for affordable daycare is not unique to Pine Valley and that having an option like Little Lovebugs for families can be a game-changer in more ways than one.

“This collaboration also has a trickle-down positive effect on the local economy and social-emotional-mental health of families,” said Meacham. “Families have a little more freedom and opportunities to focus on reaching goals of securing employment, continuing their education, and furthering their careers.”

Children in the daycare receive high-quality social and academic enrichment, and parents/guardians get daily communication through an app. Little Lovebugs is not free, but financial assistance is available via the New York State Office of Child and Family Service.

Bryna Moritz, deputy superintendent of Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES, who spearheaded the implementation of the rural daycare during her tenure as PVCS superintendent, was also in attendance.

“This was a joint effort to solve a problem in a creative way,” said Moritz, noting the dearth of affordable childcare options in the region and that, currently, there are at least two other area districts interested in implementing daycares. “I am thankful to the Board of Education for being a shining star and blazing a path.”

President/owner Heather Mohawk, who ran the Little Lovebugs daycare privately before joining PVCS, expressed gratitude to the district for its resources and for helping with the implementation process.

“This was an opportunity I didn’t know I wanted to take,” said Mohawk. “The district and its resources made it a thousand times easier.”

For more information about Little Lovebugs, visit www.pval.org or email Ms. Mohawk at Hmohawk@littlelovebugs.netor 716-241-7344 or Ms. Kenney at monicakenney@pval.org or call 988-3267, ext. 3416.

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