School will soon be starting up part-time in Petersburg and that means some parents are looking for childcare to fill in the gaps. But what do they do when many local daycares are full? As KFSK’s Angela Denning reports, some concerned residents have come together to identify families in need of childcare and how to help them get it.
For parents who work but can not work from home, part-time school for children can be a dire situation, say volunteers trying to help local families.
Heather Conn is the liaison of the group. She also happens to be the principal of the local elementary school.
“School for the most part in previous years, has taken a good chunk of a child’s day from 8 to 3 o’clock and parents haven’t always relied on childcare programs to supplement that,” Conn said.
Conn says through school surveys the volunteer group has identified at least eight children in need of new childcare and 16 adults who need help paying for it.
“On top of what we’re already experiencing for Covid, to add another expense to them, it could be a do or die situation for them. It could mean are we putting food on our table tonight or are we paying for our child’s childcare?” said Conn.
The Petersburg Community Foundation is facilitating the group’s meetings. Joni Johnson is the foundation’s program manager and she says they are trying to raise awareness in the community.
“We’re trying to increase communication and figure out what needs are,” Johnson said. “You know, it’s really important that the entire community is aware of this.”
There are several layers to the pandemic that are affecting childcare. Some parents have employers who have helped them find work-at-home solutions to the changing school schedule. But for others, it can be more complicated.
“I think as a parent it’s hard to express your need for support with your kids in your work place,” said Katie Holmlund, another concerned community member in the childcare group. She wears a lot of hats. She’s with the elementary school’s Partners in Education, she’s on the district’s school board, and she’s a teacher with the after school program Kinderskog.
“Getting this message out there will hopefully make some people realize that they’re not alone in this whole situation,” she said.
There are currently three local childcare centers that serve school-aged children from kindergarten through 5th grade: Petersburg Children’s Center’s Eagle’s Nest program, Kinderskog, and Serendipity Academy. The academy is a new full-time daycare for school-aged kids located downstairs in the Lutheran Church. Director, Michaelyn Coil, says they are still working out schedules for children depending on their need.
Holmlund says Serendipity’s new academy should help alleviate some of the childcare needs.
“Super thankful that that program is running now because it is another great spot for children to be going so that they’re not just by themselves at home or just wandering around Petersburg with all of the bears, alone,” Holmlund said.
Combined, the three childcare centers have about 60 slots for kids. Some of the programs are already full. However, Conn still encourages parents to add their children to the wait lists because those lists are constantly changing.
“The Children’s Center, Serendipity, and Kinderskog are working closely with parents and making those contacts. I’m sure if you’ve put your name on the list you are on that list for them to contact,” Conn said. “So, no need to panic as we say the word ‘full’.”
Another curve ball for some parents this fall is that the local Head Start preschool, which usually cares for about 20 children ages 3-5, is going to be distance learning only through December. The school hopes to start distance school for those students on September 22.
Besides helping families find childcare the coalition is also seeking to help families financially. The group intends to ask the Petersburg Borough for $50,000 of federal Cares Act funding and distribute money to needy families through credits for childcare. Petersburg Mental Health Services and Partners in Education are both going after grants for the group as well.
Johnson says now that they have started to identify the kids who need childcare and what capacity is at the local centers, the next step is community outreach.
“Outreach to churches, encourage families to co-op, as many different resources as we can hold to bear to support these families with younger kids, the better off we are,” Johnson said.
Besides the individuals volunteering and the daycares involved, the childcare group also includes Petersburg Mental Health Services and the SHARE coalition.
The childcare group is encouraging people to write letters of support for the fundraising effort for the childcare financial assistance. They can be emailed to Rikki at WAVE (firstname.lastname@example.org) or PiE (email@example.com). Michaelyn Coil With Serendipity encourages parents to call their new academy for 5 to 10-year-olds at (907) 772-2700.