HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — As school districts start to release plans for the fall, some are opting to have students in the classroom only a few days a week. For working parents, that means childcare issues.
Many childcare facilities are open, although typically only catering to school-aged children on an afterschool basis or during a short holiday break — certainly not all day where they’re expected to do online learning.
“What is okay in terms of a regular school year where kids may be home two hours after school by themselves, it’s not the same if they’re home all day,” said Diane Barber, executive director of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association.
Barber is acutely aware of the issues schools are facing, trying to social distance, and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
While some schools are planning to have students back in classrooms full time, others like Cumberland Valley School District have a hybrid model, only having middle and high school kids in school two days a week.
“While I understand school districts are working through this challenge, they can’t ignore that time when kids aren’t in school and how they’re going to facilitate that,” Barber said.
Some families may be able to coordinate with friends and neighbors, but Barber says childcare programs aren’t set up to have school-aged children all day.
“They may, during the day, have a preschool program and then use that space after school for their school agers, so it’s just, where are they going to put them?” Barber asked.
She says while some community groups may step in to help, “There’s also a responsibility for child abuse and criminal history clearances that are required. It’s not as easy as like a church saying you know, we’re going to provide a place to go after school.”
Barber says there’s still the issue of who should pay for these services, stressing schools need to work with families and local providers to make sure every child is taken care of.