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Fredericksburg's school system offers child care options for parents, staff

Fredericksburg's school system offers child care options for parents, staff

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Fredericksburg City Public Schools is lining up child care options for its students and its employees’ children when it reopens virtually Aug. 17 for the fall semester.

The School Board voted unanimously Monday to approve a contract with Minnieland Private Day School to provide child care for students in kindergarten through fifth grade at the city’s two elementary schools for the 2020–21 school year. Minnieland provided before- and after-school care at Hugh Mercer Elementary School for students in those grades last school year.

It will provide several new options this time, including full-time care while 100 percent of education is being provided through distance learning. There must be a minimum enrollment of 20 full-time students for the program to open and operate.

School officials had considered offering a hybrid system that included two days of in-school instruction and three days of virtual instruction before deciding to provide all instruction virtually for the first nine weeks due to concerns about COVID-19. The contract offers several options for child care that takes that into consideration.

The is a full-time hybrid offering that includes two days of before- and after-school care and three full days of child care, and a part-time version that offers the three full days of care during school hours. There’s also an option for just before- and after-school care two days a week.

Under the contract, Minnieland’s weekly fees will range from $50 for before- and after-school care for one child to $450 for three children receiving full-time care. The contract also includes a fee schedule for before- and after-school care for when the school system is able to provide 100 percent in-school learning. For one child, the fee is $55 a week for before-school care, $65 for after-school care and $85 for both times.

Parents can register at minnielandsac.com, and Minnieland will be compensated by the fees for providing the services at Hugh Mercer and Lafayette Upper Elementary School. FCPS has the option of renewing the contract for each of the next three years.

The city school system is partnering with the Rappahannock Area YMCA to get Healthy Learning Centers up and running at Hugh Mercer, Lafayette Upper Elementary and Walker–Grant Middle schools for the children of teachers and staff. School employees are considered essential personnel, and have had a hard time finding child care, Matthew Eberhardt, interim deputy superintendent, told the School Board. He said the school system reached out to YMCA officials to help develop the centers because they have more experience with these types of programs.

“What we’ve told them is that we want it to look like a camp-like experience, the majority of which is going to be supervising the virtual learning during the day, but we don’t want children stuck in front of a computer all day long. So what we would like is for them to have opportunities for physical activity and creative activity throughout the day, but to make it a fun experience,” he said.

The YMCA will provide direct supervision for at least the first week, but gradually let the school system’s paraprofessionals take over. They’ll have the time because they won’t be helping teachers in the classroom while instruction is virtual, Eberhardt said.

The school system is offering the program free to its personnel, and they’ve already shown interest in enrolling 28 children in the program at Hugh Mercer, 28 at LUES and 14 at Walker–Grant Middle School.

“We’re very fortunate to have a very strong YMCA in our area,” Eberhardt said.

The school system is also offering the Fredericksburg Branch of the Boys & Girls Club of the Rappahannock Region additional space at the Walker–Grant Annex for a child care program for kindergartners through third-graders, and possibly older children as well. The club has never offered child care during the school day, but has worked with the school system on after-school programs at the annex.

Eberhardt stressed that the students would normally be in school, and was told that the club would like to expand its after-school “Hour of Power” segment, which is when students focus on homework. He said the school system is willing to assist with grant writing to fund a program, and would provide meal delivery, assist with cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and provide PPE for students and adults if it gets up and running.

“We’ve got a lot of good opportunities out there for our kids and our employees’ kids,” Eberhardt told board members. “I know our employees are very happy that you’ve supported that.

“There are very few divisions in Virginia that I know of that are going to this extent for their employees. It’s something that you should be proud of.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

cjett@freelancestar.com

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