State clarifies order that schools provide child care for emergency responders
Friday, March 20, 2020
Oregon school districts are now facing the unfamiliar role of providing child care during the coronavirus pandemic response.
Gov. Kate Brown ordered this week that State School Fund money would continue flowing to schools, but one of the conditions was that schools must: “Provide for supplemental services and emergency management services, including but not limited to, the provision of child care for first responders, emergency workers, health care professionals, and other individuals.”
Schools are expected to offer child care for children ages 0-12, with the children of front-line health care staff being the first priority. For children ages 0-5, schools must partner with an experienced care provider or employ someone with that expertise to manage the care.
An email to superintendents and principals included a link to register a school site as ready to accept children and a toolkit to guide the process. The toolkit includes health and safety considerations.
The Early Learning Division also has a webpage with emergency child care information specific to dealing with coronavirus precautions.
On Thursday, the Oregon Department of Education surveyed districts on what sorts of facilities and staffing they could provide.
Seaside Superintendent Sheila Roley said they are working with county agencies and health care providers to figure out what they can offer.
Roley said she is not a day care specialist and the district does not have facilities set up for the youngest children but they will help any way they are asked.
“We’re waiting to find out what the need is and what part we can play in it,” Roley said.
InterMountain Education Service District has two facilities ready to go because it offers early intervention preschool programs, Superintendent Mark Mulvihill said.
Brown’s school funding order also stipulated that districts must keep paying staff.
Mulvihill said he is confident that current staff who are being paid will step up to provide the necessary care. He said, however, that he has not had those conversations yet and there will still be negotiations to figure out what that looks like.
“The governor, in some ways, has created a stimulus package by agreeing to pay for public employees in schools,” he said. “We have an obligation to help out.”
The extended school closure and pandemic precautions have upended everything schools usually do. School leaders all over the state are running full tilt trying to figure out what services they can provide.
Mulvihill said school leaders have to consider more than just education, that schools’ responses are about communities and society.
“It’s not about what I’m used to doing anymore,” Mulvihill said. “Our cultural norms in K-12, that’s not going to be what probably the next several months are.”