Edmonds School District hosts forums to discuss child care options for families

Edmonds School District leaders said the child care sites were strategically located to provide equitable access. (Image courtesy of the Edmonds School District)

As teachers prepare for remote learning this fall, the Edmonds School District has partnered with local providers to assist working families who rely on the school day to provide child care.

Since announcing schools would not be immediately reopening for in-person learning, families requiring daily child care have been scrambling to make arrangements for their children. To assist, the district has partnered with four local providers to offer services throughout the school day. In recent weeks, the district has held multiple forums on several topics and the Monday night forum was the second regarding child care. Representatives from Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, Kids Krew and Right at School — the district’s contracted child care provider — were invited to present their plans for child care this fall.

Aiming to provide families with equitable access, Assistant Superintendent Helen Joung said child care sites will be spread out across the district. The Boys and Girls Club will offer child care services at Martha Lake Elementary School in Lynnwood. The City of Mountlake Terrace’s Kids Krew will be located at the shared Terrace Park Elementary School and the Mountlake Terrace Recreation campus. Right at School will be on Cedar Valley Community School’s campus in Lynnwood. And the YMCA will be located at Chase Lake Elementary in Edmonds. While in the facilities, providers will only be using commons spaces and gyms, not classrooms.

Speaking on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, Director of Development Ken Salem said they will offer full-day child care services for district families. He also said scholarships are available for low-income families and since the Boys and Girls Club is a licensed child care facility, they can serve families requiring financial assistance through the Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS).

Staff is prepared to help students with their remote learning assignments throughout the day, Salem said. Instead of only offering its usual recreational programming, he said the Boys and Girls Club can also support academic enrichment.

“It’s our goal to help ensure that when our kids go home each evening, that our parents don’t have to worry about trying to get all the kids’ school work done,” he said.

Scholarships are also available for eligible families. Applications can be picked up in person at a Boys and Girls Club location or accessed online.

In Mountlake Terrace, Recreation Pavilion Supervisor Kevin Witte said Kids Krew will offer per-day registration, which allows families to select — and pay for — as many or as few days needed.

“So, if one week you need Monday through Friday you can do that, but the next week you might only need Thursday, you can select that,” he said. “We’re trying to make it as flexible as possible for (families).”

Witte added that Kids Krew staff will also support students with remote learning and homework.

“We’re going to make sure when they go home at the end of the day they’ve gotten as much of their school work done as possible,” he said. 

Witte also said families living within Mountlake Terrace city limits will receive discounted rates, with residents paying $44 per day and non-residents paying $48. Families with more than one child will receive a 5% discounted rate per enrolled sibling.

Additionally, Kids Krew will offer full- and half-day preschool options for families with children not yet enrolled in elementary school. The Recreation Pavilion pool will not be available to students, he added.

Right at School will also prioritize flexible scheduling options for families, said area manager Brenda Jallo. Right at School will offer morning, midday and afternoon options for families to customize schedules to fit their child care needs.

“You can choose one, two or all three of those options (for) whatever is the best fit for your families,” she said.

Right at School will be using a sliding pay scale with eligible families being able to receive up to 50% off. For more information, visit the Right at School website.

The YMCA will offer students its Learning Enrichment and Play (LEAP) Academy program, which is designed to support families with distance learning as well as other enrichment activities, social emotional learning and play, said Regional Child Care Director Megan Castellano.

The YMCA will also implement its own SCALE Learning curriculum, which Castellano said was developed to enhance the district’s curriculum. Virtual support staff will be available for online learning, she added.

While YMCA staff will be prioritizing learning, Castellano said they will also focus on ensuring students remain active throughout the day

YMCA members will receive discounted rates and financial assistance, and other subsidies will be available, Castellano said. To register, email registration@seattleymca.org or visit seattleymca.org/leap.

Edmonds School District Assistant Superintendent Helen Joung (left) and Special Education Director Hayley Etnier (right) discuss child care during a Tuesday night community forum.

Also during the forum, Assistant Superintendent Joung provided an update on recent changes from the United States Department of Agriculture, which has extended free meal funding.

“All students who are enrolled in child care sites will have free meals,” she said.

Following the presentations, staff opened the forum to questions from families. The first question asked why the district is able to offer child care, but not reopen schools even for the district’s hybrid learning model.

In response, Student Health Services Manager Mara Marano-Bianco said child care and education are both essential services but returning to in-person learning depends on the number of positive COVID-19 cases per capita in a county. Once the county reaches an acceptable number of cases per capita, public health officials could authorize the school district’s return to in-person learning.

“We can start some services when our number hit well below 75 cases per 100,000 (county residents),” she said.

Additionally, Marano-Bianco said the county would have to reach 25 cases per 100,000 residents before returning to full in-person learning.

When asked how the providers will separate students during the day for learning, staff from all four providers said students will be separated by grade level. Staff also said students will receive snacks during the day in addition to the free meals provided by the district.

In the event of a positive COVID-19 test, or if attendance drops by 10% due to students or staff experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, Marano-Bianco said staff will contact the Snohomish Health District for guidance.

“Depending on the extent of the exposure, part or all of the program may need to close, at least temporarily,” she said. “It could be 14 days, or possible even longer as advised by the local health official.”

Parents also asked about staffing levels and what the student-to-teacher ratio would be at each site. Each staff member from the represented programs said ratios will be one instructor for every 10 students.

Providers will also be monitoring registration to ensure they don’t go over capacity. Capacity for Kids Krew’s kindergarten through second grade students has been set at 30 students, and staff is still working on the upper limit for third- through sixth-grade registration. At the Boys and Girls Club, registration will be capped at around 100, but Salem may be able to expand depending on available space. Right at School will be limited to around 50 students. The YMCA will close their registration at around 40.

However, Joung said additional spaces will be available for the future, and district staff is reviewing other district properties that could potentially serve as child care sites. She also explained the differences in capacity are due to space available in each site.

“If the space is a little bit smaller, then we cap at a lower number,” she said. “It’s not because our providers…lack the capacity to service more.”

Masks will be mandatory for students attending all child care sites. When asked how staff will ensure students keep their masks on, Salem from Boys and Girls Club said students will need a mask before entering the site. If they do not have one, cloth masks will be on hand for them, he said.

Castellano from YMCA said staff will encourage students to keep masks on through positive reinforcement and social emotional learning to normalize mask wearing. She said one way that staff has done this is by singing songs about wearing a mask.

Jallo at Right at School said students have been more adaptable than adults when it comes to wearing masks. In response to a question about keeping masks clean, Jallo said if a student has a mask that appeared to be dirty, staff would provide the student with a new one. Staff from the other three provider organizations said the same.

One forum participant asked district staff if students with an individualized education program (IEP) would have access to paraeducators. According to Special Education Director Hayley Etnier, the district will not be staffing child care sites with paraeducators. However, she added staff is working with providers to develop ways to support students with IEPs.

“It is important that if your student is on an IEP and has a plan and has some consistent and clear language, that you’re sharing that with the provider so that they can use that during the day,” Etnier said.

Staff was unable to answer all of the submitted questions, but Joung said they will continue to review them and get back to families.

“Your questions are valid, and we want to make sure your children are safe,” she said.

–By Cody Sexton

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