The Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition hosted a meeting for the community’s child care providers on March 17 to discuss the impacts of the school closing and the need for childcare in Gothenburg in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was hosted digitally and included in-home providers, school officials, preschool providers and learning centers.
The conversation was geared to help providers identify any potential concerns they have for any of the children in their care due to the closure of the school, as well as help families impacted by school and care facility closures, find a solution to the need for care.
The first order of business was to hear from Dr.Todd Rhodes, Gothenburg Public Schools Superintendent, who provided updates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Health.
Rhodes said the closure of the school was not done from a panic standpoint, rather but to do our part as it relates to social distancing.
“We are here to support everyone, in whatever fashion that looks like,” Rhodes said.
“The reason for this meeting is not to tell people they should do one thing or another, it is simply to formulate a plan for any needs,” said Colten Venteicher, president of the Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition (GECLC).
While in-home providers have remained open and at capacity, preschool providers have fallen in line with the school and have closed, as has Learning Adventures.
Building Blocks plans to remain open but is not accepting any additional children at this time.
Antonia Mendez said the YMCA at Gothenburg Health would provide care to front-line staff who works as a part of the Gothenburg Health system.
Most providers reported their programs have seen a decrease in participation in the past week as the situation with the school has evolved.
“It’s hard to project where the need is going to be because you can’t pinpoint any family situation,” Venteicher said.
“Most people have older siblings or cousins who are coming over and a lot of teacher families who are helping to cover the need of kids from our center,” Casey Madsen, owner of Learning Adventures said. “Another thing we are seeing is that parents are rotating days.”
Dr. Rhodes indicated that there may be some paraeducators at the high school who may be available to help.
Additional conversation included other spaces in the community that can be utilized for child care during the school closure.
Keeping the numbers at 10 or less is the hurdle to clear, and as the providers worked through solutions, many options were offered.
Rhodes shared with the group the school’s plan to help facilitate food during the closure, indicating that there is a form available for anyone who is watching children to fill out and identify how many meals they need in order to take some pressure off of the care provider.
The GECLC is working on a solution to provide a landing page of information for people who are in need of care or for those willing to lend a hand.
“We want to get these kids in the right settings as opposed to getting them into a setting,” Venteicher said. “This is going to be a fluid situation, there is going to be a lot more to deal with.”
The group will reconvene next week to reevaluate the situation.