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What you should know about NYC’s child care plan for ‘essential’ workers and students needing ‘intensive’ support

Classroom of empty desks and chairs. Wokandapix/ISO republic

New York City’s education department released on Tuesday more details about its childcare plan for healthcare, emergency services, and transit workers as city schools remain closed until at least April 20.

Finding childcare for these workers had been the biggest hurdle of closing the nation’s largest school system in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Only after solutions were far enough along to address this issue, was the city able to announce its closure.

New York City’s plan, however, comes as Los Angeles public schools decided to scrap a similar plan, heeding warnings from public officials there.

Here’s what we know, at this point, about what children will do at these sites, which will open as of Monday, and how they will be staffed.

I work in healthcare, transit, or emergency services. Where can I send my child?

The education department will open about 100 sites across the city for all city children, regardless of whether they go to public or private school. They could create more sites if needed. They will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. for children in 3-K up to 12th grade.

The department has not yet said where the sites will be. Families will be offered a space at a site based on where they live, according to the plan sent to the state.

What if I’m not someone who works in healthcare or transit, or am not a first responder?

These sites will be prioritized for workers in those three categories, but children of other “essential” jobs may be allowed at these sites as space permits, according to the education department. The department did not immediately say what other jobs would be considered essential.

These sites will also be available for “students in need of the most intensive support.” However, the department did not immediately specify who those students are. The city has previously said that students with special needs who require physical therapies would likely receive those services virtually.

What will these sites look like?

The sites will be in school buildings. Up to 12 children and at least one adult will be allowed in each room in order to maintain proper social distancing and “personalized attention.”

Children who attend district schools will be able to participate in remote learning that schools across the city are setting up for students by next week. There will also be a chance to participate in art, music, and physical education.

Students will receive three hot meals a day, which will be delivered to individual classrooms.

Who will be supervising these centers?

Employees from the education department and community-based organizations will staff the centers. It’s not yet known if they will be volunteering to work here.

There will also be two nurses, a social worker, and a guidance counselor at each site.

What if my child is 3 or 4?

The education department said “many” of these regional centers will have childcare for 3- and 4-year-old children, with some sites dedicated solely to child care. The department plans to issue emergency contracts with early education programs for children ages 3 and 4, as well as a “limited number” of infants and toddlers.

As of Monday night, other contracted child care centers have been allowed to stay open “as long as they can safely operate,” the department said.

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