Area schools are closed while students do eLearning from home, but what if parents have to go to work?
Some Jackson County moms and dads can stay home with their children. Others work and already have a plan in place, but some parents are uncertain of child care arrangements.
Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network, said Boys and Girls Club of Seymour Executive Director Ryon Wheeler has been working hard to make sure his facility remains open to care for as many children as possible. The hours are 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"While Child Care Network Inc. is not able to operate at this time since the schools aren’t open, we are working together with the Boys and Girls Club to brainstorm activities for the kids to do all day," Garrity said.
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She said they are working on figuring out what the community needs are so they can connect people with the proper resources.
Jackson County United Way has distributed surveys for first responders and industry employees in order to learn more about their current child care needs.
"We are trying to find out what the needs are and how we can meet them, as a lot of child care places have shut down," Garrity said. "Maybe parents have school-age kids that are too young to stay home by themselves or still trying to figure out what to do and make sure the kiddos are safe while they can still go and do their job."
She said some Child Care Network staff members also are ready to work with the Boys and Girls Club so additional children can be cared for when needed.
"We have all been in constant communication as the needs are identified and changes occur," Garrity said. "I am so impressed with how our community is coming together to make things happen."
Wheeler said after talking to local health officials and the club’s board, they decided to keep the facility open.
"Originally, things were going to be closed for just two weeks, and then things would be back to normal," he said. "At first, we were going to serve 250 kids. Then the CDC changed it to 100, and then the number quickly decreased."
He said the Boys and Girls Club’s primary focus right now is essential personnel, which includes grocery store workers, industry employees, etc., along with Schneck Medical Center employees and first responders.
"The state has deemed child care an essential service, and we decided that we’re going to do what we’ve done for over 70 years and be here for the kids," Wheeler said. "Luckily, our numbers are low, and that’s good, as we don’t want massive numbers because that’s how the virus spreads, and young kids don’t really understand the concept of social distancing."
Wheeler said they keep reiterating how far apart 6 feet is to keep the kids away from each other.
"We have them wash their hands frequently, and we hope the parents are doing that at home, as well, and we make sure they know that," Wheeler said. "We are working with the schools and picking up breakfast and lunch, and then we have snacks that we ourselves provide through Indiana Alliance."
Wheeler said they also have the Blessings in a Backpack program funded by Schuler Bauer Real Estate Services and several different community partners.
"Not all of the kids here utilize that, so we’ve been dropping those backpacks off to some of our families who are in need," Wheeler said.
The club also is taking other precautions.
"When kids come in, we check their temperatures, and we do the same CDC checks that you’d do if you went to the hospital," Wheeler said. "We ask if they’ve had any symptoms in the past 24 hours and then go over it with them, what symptoms the CDC is specifically asking about."
They also ask CDC travel questions and if the parent has given his or her child Tylenol to suppress a fever before coming in. Then the parent signs off if they haven’t.
"We have cut off the water fountains, so kids must bring their own water bottles, and we can fill it from the tap," Wheeler said. "We are also doing extra cleaning and taking measures that will hopefully cut back on the spread of the coronavirus."
Wheeler said they really went back and forth on the decision to remain open, but he doesn’t know what other child care options are available besides in-home options at this point.
They also are trying to keep as normal of a day as possible, serving breakfast at about 8:30 a.m., lunch around 11:30 a.m. and a snack at approximately 3 p.m.
"Around 9 a.m., we get into our programming, and we try to switch that up each day, and some kids need more help with their eLearning," he said. "So they would be in one area, and the other group may go to another room and do something educational, whether it’s a math game, reading game or flash cards."
Wheeler said he knows his staff members are not teachers, but when parents are working and teachers are only available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., they sometimes are the only contact to help the kids with what they need.
"Obviously, they can email their teachers, and they’re doing a great job getting back to the kids, and we even had a couple kids here that are in the same class," Wheeler said. "Their teacher had a 1 p.m. Zoom meeting, so we got the kids in there and let them work with their teacher and classmates."
He said his staff is working really hard to make sure they understand the eLearning, which is difficult when there are so many kids from different schools.
"The number of kids we have coming through here has changed, and I think it’s going to ebb and flow day to day," Wheeler said. "The week of spring break, we had about 35 kids a day, and the last two weeks, we probably averaged about 15 kids a day, and we’re OK with that and don’t need huge numbers."
Wheeler said they already know the increased hours from the extended shutdown will cost the Boys and Girls Club extra money.
"We realize that because some of our staff has gone from working four hours a day to working 11 hours a day, and every single staff member’s shift has expanded," he said. "We’ve had increased cost, and some donors have stepped up and helped close that gap, and regardless, our cap is 45 kids per day."
Wheeler said if they have to go over 45 kids, The Point in Seymour will allow them to open the Family Ministry Center and serve an additional 45 kids there. In that case, the club would have to hire and train.
"Thanks to Kate Garrity, she has some staff members that are ready to hop on board should it happen that we need them," Wheeler said. "It’s not Boys and Girls Club and United Way and Kids Klub working blindfolded. We are working together with multiple emails, phone calls and text messages. We just want kids to have a safe place to be while their parents have to work during this crisis."
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The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has launched the Hoosiers Serving Hoosiers service to connect job seekers with ways to support residents needing direct support services and child care.
Direct support professionals are needed to provide critical care for older Hoosiers and those with disabilities.
Also, child care providers are needed to care for children of first responders, health care and other essential workers so everyone can stay safe and healthy.
The FSSA is working to link Hoosiers willing to serve Hoosiers with these available opportunities.
Visit in.gov/fssa/5769.htm to fill out the form to be connected with opportunities.
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First Responders Child Care Survey:
Industry Child Care Survey:
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The Boys and Girls Club of Seymour is open from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 950 N. O’Brien St.
If someone has a child care need, contact Kate Garrity at 812-524-2585 or Ryon Wheeler at 812-522-2434.