A week after Michele Meanor was hired at the Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA), she found out she was pregnant. When her daughter River, turned 1, she started to worry about childcare.
Turns out her employer has the solution.
On Friday, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) announced it will soon open a new on-site childcare center called La Petite Academy, open to the children of ACAA employees and other airport campus workers. River is already enrolled.
Meanor, an Environmental Programs Administrator, said she was thrilled to learn about the new center.
“It will be fun for River to say, ‘My mom works at the airport, and I get to spend my day watching all of these planes.’ It’s exciting for kids,” Meanor said.
Although she looked into other local childcare centers, convenience and affordable cost ultimately swayed Meanor’s decision to enroll River in La Petite. The center’s fees are below market rates, and they accept state-supplied tuition assistance from those who qualify for it.
The center’s focus on a STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering and math) was another bonus for Meanor.
“I was super interested when they talked about it being a STEM program. That was a big deal for me,” she said. “I think it creates a good foundation in many areas of development.”
The STEM curriculum helps children merge academic and real-world skills. As a science enthusiast, Meanor is excited for River to learn more about STEM and gain valuable cognitive skills—all before she reaches kindergarten.
Commercial Development Manager Graham Kukucka shares the same sentiment. He has enrolled both of his children, 1-year-old Callum and 3-year-old Rowen, into La Petite.
“The STEM-focused curriculum is really important to us,” Kukucka said. “We felt like it was the sort of the challenge that our daughter—and our son, when he’s a little bit older—was in need of.”
Kukucka is no stranger to the challenges of finding childcare. He started searching for daycare facilities for his daughter during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he struggled to find a place that provided the safety and healthcare precautions he was looking for.
“To have a brand-new facility—something that’s state-of-the-art—it’s really hard to find,” Kukucka said. He feels lucky to be so close to a childcare center that is “best in class.”
He’s not alone. Parents have faced increasing childcare difficulties since the pandemic, and the lack of childcare resources has driven working parents out of the workforce. With the new childcare center, PIT hopes to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce that invites working parents to be part of the airport team.
Kukucka shared some photos of La Petite with Rowen, and she can’t wait to get started.
“She has been telling her friends at her current school that she’s going to be going to a new school at the airport. She’s incredibly excited,” Kukucka said.
David Storer, Director of Commercial Development, enrolled his 3-year-old daughter Charlotte into the center too. Storer is anticipating being able to bond with colleagues like Kukucka over their shared childcare experience. He is also happy to see his employer investing in its employees.
“It’s definitely something in this competitive market that makes you say, ‘This is different from somewhere else,’” he said. “It’s not just about the paycheck. It’s about the environment and culture, which is one of the reasons I choose to work here.”