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In order for essential workers to fill our hospitals, grocery stores, police stations and many other places, they need to be able to have safe, reliable childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, Governor Cuomo released an Executive Order mandating all school districts in New York State to develop a childcare plan.

The Averill Park Central School District chose to partner with Greenbush Child Caring (GCC) to provide this service in its own community, using one of its Elementary School buildings.

“We think the program that the District is offering is great and fills a need for working parents,” said Julie Bashant, who is an essential worker utilizing the program. “It gives our son the opportunity to be active and social with other children and staff while also introducing social distancing, regular hand washing and temperature-checks into real life. With parents who are required to work during this difficult time, the program offers a safe place for children to be outside and interact with others allowing for fewer hours in front of a screen. The dedicated staff also helps with distance learning during the time my son attends. We applaud the District and GCC for successfully running this program and I’m not sure what we would do without it.”

Throughout the day, children participate in a variety of activities in a structured environment. Those activities typically include arts and crafts projects, and active play outdoors. Site Directors are also incorporating community service projects for first responders and healthcare workers as a way to give back and say thank you.

“We incorporate fitness regularly; yoga is led by one of our Site Directors and children engage in other fitness routines using videos. The employees also assist children with their schoolwork on their Chrome books to ensure their work is completed daily,” GCC Executive Director Kim Berben said.

To adhere to new social distancing rules, staff wear masks and children are kept six feet apart at individual workstations and during play/fitness times.

“Children and employees are screened daily by school district nurses. Temperatures are taken upon arrival, once during the day and upon departure,” Berben said. “The school nurses are available to our staff as needed during program hours. The children wash their hands regularly throughout the day; they are supervised during handwashing to ensure proper technique is being used. Sanitizing stations are readily available, and the district staff are vigilant with sanitizing daily.”

Playground equipment, which is closed to the general public, is also sanitized prior to, and after, use each day.

“The program is amazing,” parent Stephanie Watrous said. “Everyone from the nursing staff to the workers that help my daughter with her schoolwork are great. They have gone way above what is needed of them to help her get her schoolwork done and they make it fun and not more stressful than the situation already is.

“My daughter really likes how they are doing projects and not just schoolwork all day. They have the kids doing different projects throughout the week. I would definitely encourage anyone that needs childcare during this time to look into the program. The way they have it set up before the kids can even enter the building is very safe and puts my mind at ease.”

Currently, between five and 10 children are attending the program each day. Essential workers who need childcare and reside in the Averill Park Central School District can still sign up for the service. This program comes at no expense to parents who are classified as essential workers.