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Child care centers want a shot at COVID-19 vaccines for staff
Akron Beacon Journal - 1/26/2021
Both school teachers and child care staff work with school-aged children. But only one group is part of the vaccine rollout so far.
Ohio is prioritizing reopening schools and working to get COVID-19 vaccines to teachers as early as next week.
But child care staff helping those students learn remotely don't know when doses will get to them, said Willa Smith, CEO of Here for You Child Development Center.
“We’re a little frustrated that the school teachers are in this wave, and the child care centers doing the online learning with these kids are not,” she said.
As the state continues its vaccine rollout in Phase 1B, employees of K-12 schools that are open or offering hybrid-learning can start being vaccinated on Feb. 1. Employees of school districts like Akron that have pledged to reopen in some capacity by March 1 also are eligible.
More: Akron district pledges to reopen schools in March, allowing for early vaccinations for staff
Here for You has four centers in Akron, North Canton, Canal Fulton and Massillon. Each accepts kids ages 6 weeks to 12 years.
After limiting how many children each child care center could serve, the state is allowing operators to go back to their normal staff-to-student ratios. The problem is having enough staff.
Smith said she needs to have extra people available in case a staff member tests positive or has to quarantine. She also needs to have extra staff to implement some of the COVID-19 safety measures.
Because she needs to have some wiggle room, Smith said she can’t open at full capacity.
Smith said they're trying their best to help families that need child care, which is in high demand. Parents who can’t work at home, and don’t have schools open, need it.
Smith said some bosses aren’t allowing parents to keep their children home, even if they’re working from home.
She said the nonprofit day care is taking care of many of the same children who will return to the classrooms when schools reopen, but child care workers aren't being priorized for the vaccine rollout.
“We have no idea where we are on the list,” Smith said.
Melanie Amato, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health, said school staff were moved ahead of other essential and frontline workers to allow kids to get back to in-person school. Child care staff, while working with the same-aged children, aren’t considered essential to reopening the schools.
“The eligible staff are the people who make this happen,” Amato said in a statement. “We have not, to date, considered these school-adjacent personnel eligible, which is not to say that their work is not valuable. We have, however, tried to focus on the folks who are essential to having in-person K-12 learning. Phases 1A and 1B do not include day care teachers, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be included in other vaccination priority groups.”
Beth Kelley, vice president of licensed care for the Akron Area YMCA, said they also were hoping that day care staff would be lumped in with K-12 school employees. For now, she said they’re continuing to rebuild the program as they work within existing COVID-19 protocols.
She said all the YMCA’s area child care centers are open.
Prior to the pandemic, they served more than 1,000 kids, she said. Now they’re serving about 500.
Kelley said the YMCA has school-aged programming at six locations to help students, many from Akron schools, with remote learning.
When the vaccine is available to staff, she said getting it will be highly encouraged.
“We’re hopeful that will help us rebuild and we’ll be able to serve more children, Kelley said.
She said staff will continue to work to serve kids as they wait their turn. Kelley said “pivot” has been the word of the year, and they’ll continue to pivot as the vaccine rollout continues.
Both Kelley and Smith said their child care centers have been doing a lot to keep children and staff safe. Cleaning has increased, social distancing measures are in place and children are being monitored for symptoms.
Kelley said they have not seen much spread of the virus in the YMCA’s facilities. A classroom had to be shut down and quarantined, but all eight locations in the region have stayed open.
Up until about two weeks ago, Here for You also hadn’t run into any issues, Smith said. As of Monday, however, she said the two locations in Akron and New Franklin had to close and quarantine. When they close, the kids being served have to quarantine as well.
Parents who can’t work from home, like restaurant employees and grocery store staff, are in need of child care that’s in short supply, she said. But parents working from home also are struggling, trying to do double-duty.
“Honestly, it's hitting all the parents hard,” she said. “It just hits in different ways.”
As long as she has staffing concerns due to COVID-19, Smith said it’s harder to fill those parents’ needs.
Reach Reporter Sean McDonnell at 330-996-3186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Child care centers want a shot at COVID-19 vaccines for staff
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