In addition to the stress and risk of having to work during the COVID-19 outbreak, essential workers also have to find out what to do with their children in a time when all schools and daycares have closed. Thankfully, as of last week, Capital Region essential workers are getting a helping hand when it comes to childcare. Starting March 25, the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) BOCES, began offering free childcare services to essential workers at three of its Capital Region facilities: the Southern Adirondack Education Center in Queensbury, the Sanford Street Teaching and Learning Center in Glens Falls and the F. Donald Myers Education Center in Saratoga Springs.
“We’re just so excited to be able to help out in this way because there’s such a need,” says Denise Capece, executive principal at WSWHE BOCES. The free childcare program runs from 7:30am-3:30pm during the week and includes breakfast, lunch and a daily snack for participants. Each facility features two classrooms: one for children ages three to five, the other for children ages six to twelve. Though educational programming isn’t currently offered, Capece says that kids are absolutely encouraged to bring in their school work. “We have staff that are willing and want to help with homework,” says Capece.
As for the obvious concern over potential COVID-19 contamination, Capece says that BOCES has taken some extra precautions. Every morning, each child’s temperature is taken at a registration table before he or she even enters the classrooms. If a child is running a temperature then he or she is turned away. The new childcare program also strictly enforces social distancing, putting only eight children and two adults in each classroom, as well as encouraging regular hand-washing throughout the day. So far, Capece says that the real challenge has been practicing social distancing in the classrooms. “The three to five year olds have a hard time understanding the need for this,” she says. “But the older ones understand it much better.”
The number of children attending the program fluctuates depending on the day—the schedules of essential workers can be hectic and change on a dime—but Capece says that BOCES has about 25 kids enrolled that come regularly, albeit not every day, with a capacity of up to 48. “But, really, we can expand as much as we need,” she says. “We’re currently using our employees as childcare workers, and we have plenty of classrooms.”
Three local school districts—Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls and Fort Edward Union Free School—are providing the children’s meals, and WSWHE funds pay for the snacks and protective equipment, such as gloves and masks. As for how long BOCES is prepared to offer this free childcare to essential workers, Capece says: “We’ll keep it open for the duration of the COVID pandemic.”