Back to school is looking a lot different for our kids this year as they transition to virtual learning. As local government organizations, many of our employees are now juggling work on top of serving as a teaching assistant in their child’s online learning. Without in-person classes, many employees are dealing with new childcare dilemmas and some may even consider leaving the organization to stay home and provide the best education for their children in these unprecedented times. Municipalities are recognizing this new challenge and are offering innovative and collaborative childcare solutions for employees.
1. Repurposing People and Facilities
Many schools, recreation, and community centers are sitting empty as our communities physically distance in an effort to fight COVID-19. To support essential workers cities and towns have repurposed these facilities to offer safe childcare and virtual learning.
The City of Phoenix has partnered with a school district to allow children of essential workers to be on campus. Students still attend school virtually by logging in from school with a teaching aid in the room to support them. Safety measures are still in place with masks, frequent hand washing, and kids in pods of no more than 15.
The City of Spearfish, South Dakota has converted its recreation spaces to facilitate childcare services. Recreation staff run the daycare and provide additional training. This model worked has been so successful that the city is considering making these services permanent, especially with the increased revenues for the recreation center.
The Town of Vienna, Virginia has converted their community center to host a Distant Learning Center program ( DLC) that runs from Monday to Friday 6:30 am - 5 pm. This program allows children to be supervised while going through their virtual learning and they offer limited academic support. The VSS State Licensing Exemption allows the town to hold a school-age program, in a government building, operated by local government.
The District of Oak Park has taken childcare in their own hands by hiring 55 daycare workers to provide childcare. Kids are in hubs of 10 where they can do their virtual schooling with staff help and supervision. With the element of virtual learning being introduced staff has collaborated with educators to make this work.
3. Identifying providers
Municipalities are assisting working families and essential workers by helping them identify childcare providers. Programs like Childcare Aware in New Hampshire, Frontline Childcare in Texas, and On My Way in Indiana help families identify childcare, early education, and after-school opportunities for working families through virtual portals that make the process easier.
4. Services for City Employees
Beyond childcare, municipalities are offering new and flexible benefits to assist employees during the pandemic.
The City of Clearwater is providing paid FMLA for employees who are unable to work (or telework) in order to care for the employee’s minor son or daughter when the child’s school or care provider is closed/unavailable due to a public health emergency.
Like many cities, the City of Tuscaloosa is working toward offering flexible time or telework time when it is possible. This allows employees to be able to stay at home with their children who may be learning virtually.
The City of Austin is offering financial assistance of up to $50 per week to employees who need childcare assistance. This program is aimed to help essential workers limit the costs of childcare.
For more information check out our research request on this topic: http://www.transformgov.org/programs-and-projects/local-government-childcare-solutions-during-covid