The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant childcare crisis. With schools and daycares closed until further notice, thousands of parents are at a loss as to who will watch their children while they work. Although many parents have been able to strike a work-life balance using remote work capabilities, essential and frontline workers do not have this option. Parents who are essential workers may have a solution, however, in a YMCA-sponsored daycare program that has started up in Sacramento.
YMCA Opens Daycare Services for Essential Workers
In addition to the obvious issue of essential workers being unable to stay home to care for their children, many parents are also concerned over the lack of playing and socializing during this time – important fundamentals for child development. To offer a safe space where children can play together and learn while parents are at work, YMCAs throughout Sacramento have partnered with local churches and synagogues to create 11 emergency daycare centers in the area exclusively for use by parents who are essential workers. These daycare centers make use of open and available spaces in local places of worship in Sacramento to host the children of essential workers during the day. The YMCA calls each space a classroom pod.
How Many People Are in a Classroom Pod?
The YMCA’s classroom pods have provided an invaluable service to parents and families who have been unable to find daycare after centers throughout California closed. The YMCA has taken every precaution in ensuring the safety of its classroom pods for the children of essential workers. This includes limiting the number of students and staff members allowed in each classroom pod to reduce contact and adhere to social distancing measures. The maximum number of children in any classroom pod is 10, with no more than 3 staff members to supervise and teach.
Will There Be Testing and Temperature Checks?
Another precautionary measure the YMCA is taking with its daycare program is checking the temperature of each child, each day. Parents drop their children off at the door, where the child has his or her temperature checked before being allowed entrance. If the child has a fever, the teacher will not allow the child to enter the classroom pod. Should any child exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 while at the daycare center, a staff member will notify the parents and take quarantine measures immediately. The YMCA may then assist families in obtaining free coronavirus tests for children in the program.
The YMCA Is Looking to Expand its Daycare Services Throughout Sacramento
The president and CEO of YMCA – the largest childcare provider in the country – states that the program’s momentum has increased over the last few weeks. The YMCA is currently trying to expand its number of classroom pods to meet the considerable demand that schools cannot fill. In San Joaquin, for example, the local YMCA is opening a second camp at Horizon Christian Fellowship in addition to the existing three pods it has at a camp at the Calvary First Assembly of God Church.
Half of the children currently in these three pods are reduced- or free-lunch eligible. More than 60% of students in San Joaquin County are in foster care, on free or reduced lunch, or English learners. The YMCA offers its classroom pods on a sliding-fee scale for optimal affordability for families. Limited funding, however, is making it difficult for the YMCA to increase the scale of the program.
The current plan is for the YMCA to continue to partner with members in the community that have the space to host classroom pods, as well as to raise donations and secure grants to fund the creation of new camps and pods. The YMCA hopes its classroom pods and daycare service will provide safe places for children to play, learn, do homework, socialize and engage in other activities while their parents are on the frontlines during these unprecedented times.