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Glastonbury school district opens child care center to serve teachers amid pandemic-driven shortage
Hartford Courant - 9/16/2020
Glastonbury school officials have opened a day care center for teachers' children in a former elementary school to ease the challenges parents face during the pandemic.
“We realized we were going to have an issue with staff not having child care,” School Superintendent Alan Bookman said Wednesday. “For those with young kids, there was a potential it could stop them from working.”
The center at the former Eastbury School is divided into sections for infants, toddlers and 3- and 4-year-olds. Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Early Learning Center at Eastbury can accommodate a total of 32 children, Bookman said. The cost is $12,000 per child per school year he said.
At a town council meeting in August, Assistant Superintendent Matt Dunbar said that short-term, the new program will help teachers return to their classrooms, and long-term, it will help them continue to balance career and home and help recruit teachers.
“We don’t see this as a one-year endeavor,” Dunbar said at the meeting. “We see it as something that can be very beneficial moving forward.”
Bookman noted that there is a shortage of available day care throughout the state because of the coronavirus pandemic. State Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye told Connecticut Public Radio recently that only about half of the pre-pandemic supply of daycare facilities are now available.
The Eastbury center, which also will accept children from the public if slots are available, is full, Bookman said. The Glastonbury district also is allowing teachers who live in other towns to bring their school-aged children with them on days their kids have distance learning. For the most part, Glastonbury schools are not using school libraries as libraries, so teachers holding their classes in those spaces may bring their own kids, Bookman said.
Also, the district has allowed staff members who live in other towns to enroll their children in Glastonbury schools for this school year, local teachers union President Jeremy Gervais said. Gervais, who lives in Vernon, said he and his wife took advantage of the offer and enrolled their first-grade son in Buttonball Elementary School.
Gervais said he can drop off and pick up his child much more easily. Also, Glastonbury elementary students are attending school five days a week, which he and his wife prefer to Vernon’s hybrid schedule.
Glastonbury teachers, he said, are grateful to district administrators and the school board for accommodating teachers during a tough time of “crazy schedules" that often conflict with child care needs.
“It’s clear that (school district leaders) recognize how critical it is to get teachers into schools,” Gervais said. “Otherwise, this already difficult situation would become unmanageable.”
Statewide, the Office of Early Childhood and United Way of Connecticut established an “enhanced child care referral protocol” over the summer meant to ensure teachers and board of education staff have priority access to finding available child care. Call 860-756-0864 for more information.
Jesse Leavenworth can be reached at email@example.com
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