Area YMCA providing free school day care during virtual learning

Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 6:28 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - This past spring many parents became teachers to their children when schools closed and learning went virtual.

Now, one area organization is stepping in to lend a hand for districts starting this academic year online by offering a temporary solution for parents in need.

Like many districts in the state, La Crosse County schools are starting the academic year virtual.

One area organization is working with those districts to ensure the community can keep running while students are not in school.

“We have 16 before and after school programs in La Crosse, Onalaska, and Holmen and all of those sites will open up into full day programs,” said Jennie Melde, the La Crosse YMCA director of youth development. “We can take anywhere between 20 and 80 children at a site.”

The YMCA, which is a licensed childcare provider, will be utilizing all elementary schools in La Crosse, Onalaska, and Holmen for the program staffed with YMCA and district employees.

While the before and after school care is a fee based program, the temporary school care is being offered free through the district and the YMCA.

Director of youth development at the Y Jennie Melde says the offerings will follow a schedule built by the school districts.

“That time between about 8 and 3 will be based on the school district virtual learning, so it will replicate a school day model with having their core classes -- their reading, their math, their art, their music, their PE throughout the day,” Melde explained.

However, the YMCA is not able to provide care for children enrolled in the Coulee Region Virtual Academy.

While some may wonder why this childcare program can use school buildings, but in-person classes are canceled--the YMCA says there is a huge difference in operation.

“Schools have a significantly larger number of children who are commingling,” Melde added. “They’re sharing bathrooms, they’re sharing cafeterias, they’re sharing spaces and hallways and our program will [have] significantly less children-- at least a 25 percent capacity compared with school buildings.”

For the community based organization, offering this care meets a need.

“We know we need to get children back in school when it is safe to do so and before then we need to make sure to have small groups [of students],” said Melde. “We’re limiting the spread of COVID-19 and we are keeping our community healthy and well.”

The temporary school day care is being offered from September 1 through October 2 in alignment with when the districts are virtual.

The YMCA will look at the next phase of planning and extended if needed.

A similar full day program is being offered at the Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire YMCAs, but there is a fee. The deadline to apply for those flexible care options is August 19.

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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