What to do? Hermitage childcare workers discuss balancing work, watching kids this school year


Staff at Building Blocks Child Center in Hermitage said they can’t watch children that are going to school online because they are technically in school

HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – As schools release their plans to go fully online, fully in-person or a hybrid of the two, many parents are left wondering what to do.

Staff at Building Blocks Child Center in Hermitage said they can’t watch children that are going to school online because they are technically in school.

“We have families calling in if they can be added to an emergency list if their school doesn’t return,” said Co-Director Alexis Spence-Locke. “We have them on a list, but right now, we don’t know.”

The problem is that they are licensed as a childcare facility, so if a child is supposed to be in school, they can’t watch them while parents go to work.

“After the age of 8, children have to be in school or some kind of higher learning and we don’t have that licensing as a childcare center. So until we’re given the OK or DHS lessens the regulations or removes some of the stipulations, then we can say, ‘OK, we can take your child,’” Spence-Locke said. 

She also said that they were told DHS is waiting for guidance to see if they can take some of these students to help parents out.

If the stipulations were removed, space and staffing would become an issue. Many of the staff are college students and have to go back to class themselves.

“If you have a dozen kids in a room, school-age ratio is 1:12, you can’t have one teacher trying to do 12 different curriculums,” Spence-Locke said.

Spence-Locke and Nutrition Coordinator Cassie Murray are both parents so they would be faced with the issue of choosing between work and staying home with their children.

“Until we get guidance from DHS, I’ll be honest, I don’t know what I’ll do,” Spence-Locke said.

“My daughter is 7, too, and she’s going into second grade, and my other daughter is 4 and she is supposed to start Head Start this year,” Murray said.

It’s an issue because they don’t know if they should buy school supplies or uniforms. However, both would send their children back to school if it is an option.

“If I’m given the option to online school or send my child back to school, I will send my child back to school,” Spence-Locke said.

Murray agreed and would also choose to send her children back.

“I just don’t understand. Since we reopened, my kids have been here every day,” Murray said. “I realize the school has more kids, but they’re going to go through the same precautions that we go through. They have more room to spread out… my kids will go back to school.”

Building Blocks Child Center has been operating at full capacity, and on August 9, Ohio childcare centers can operate at full capacity.

Spence-Locke and Murray’s advice: clean and social distance as much as possible.

“The biggest thing I would say to a center that’s just reopening at full capacity is clean, clean, clean,” Spence-Locke said.

They also take temperatures at the beginning and halfway through the day and said they haven’t had an issue with children keeping masks on.

“They see other kids wearing them, and this the new normal,” Murray said.

“It kind of is,” Spence-Locke said. “They see their parents, they see people at the stores, they’ll see their teachers — they kind of jumped right in.”

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