Updated: Mar 20, 2020
How might we provide safe, high-quality childcare coverage to UNC Health workers ASAP leveraging existing infrastructure out of the private home?
Info gathered: The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) held a call with school leaders across the state today and shared this Google Sheet of FAQs. School leaders were able to ask/submit questions and then NC DPI representatives responded in the spreadsheet for all to see. We have excerpted two relevant questions asked by school leaders and NC DPI’s responses below.
Should school buildings have hours each day they might be open for parent or student questions and/or support or does the closure mean buildings should be closed during the entire two week period?
Answer: While schools have been ordered closed as instructional institutions, buildings should remain open.
We offer both before and after school care and all day care on teacher workdays for elementary students. Many parents rely on this because they have to work. We typically have approximately 15-30 students per elementary school site. Can we continue to operate these programs? How will state departments and officials assist parents with child care now that schools are closed?
Answer: Yes. These programs can continue to operate. Please be mindful that the Governor’s Executive Order limits the number of individuals who can assemble in a meeting space (e.g., cafeteria, auditorium, etc.) to 100.
Additional guidance from the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Health and Human Services is expected in the coming days on matters concerning child care, in particular to support the needs of critical health care professional and first responders.
School leaders we spoke to were under the impression that public school buildings were to remain open under the governor’s executive order, schools could then opt-in to inviting childcare organizations to use their empty buildings to provide childcare to healthcare workers, and those childcare organizations would provide staff to care for the children.
If this were to work, this is how this might look (NOTE: The following names and organizations are being used only as an illustrative example): Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill partners with YMCA of the Triangle to offer childcare to UNC Health workers. UNC Health workers could sign up for childcare with YMCA of the Triangle at Smith Middle School even if their child does not attend Smith Middle School regularly and even if they do not attend Chapel Hill/Carrboro schools.
Insights: Childcare providers in general want and need more specific guidelines and best practices from medical and social distancing experts about how to care for children amidst COVID-19. While there are recommendations for influenza outbreaks and general guidelines put forth for COVID-19 (name and link examples, e.g. CDC and some states), there are still many questions that are left unanswered.
School leaders would like template language their schools could use with childcare organizations to expedite the formation of partnerships.
For childcare guidelines amidst COVID-19,How many children should be assigned to each provider?
How much space should be designated for each set of provider and children?
What are safe, recommended activities for providers and children during the hours they are together?
What is a recommended bathroom protocol?
What is a recommended food protocol?
How do UNC health workers feel about this partnership model?
What concerns do they have?
What would they need to be true in order to agree to this childcare solution?