With classes now being held online, Durango School District 9-R has opened its child care center for children of first responders and medical providers.
Only five to seven children have been using the free service, but 9-R has the capacity to serve up to 25 students, said Andy Burns, deputy superintendent.
“It was set up specifically for our first responders, so it was meant to target and serve the children of employees who are considered essential to containing and treating the virus and protecting our vulnerable populations across the community,” Burns said.
The center, which is located at Needham Elementary School, 2425 West Third Avenue, is open to children through the end of the academic year on June 3.
The children of first responders and health care providers are eligible for the free child care. This includes children of doctors, nurses, all hospital support personnel, staff members at doctors offices, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and people working with vulnerable populations, such as workers at long-term care facilities or mental-health facilities.
Children’s temperatures are taken before they are admitted for the day. In addition, families are asked to fill out surveys about recent illnesses and symptoms shown by people in the household to ensure children and families using the program are free of the novel coronavirus.
The program is open to the children of first-responders and medical profession employees regardless of whether they reside in the 9-R district.
“If it’s more convenient for an emergency personnel worker who works in the Durango area, but perhaps they live in Bayfield, for example, to have child care in Durango, they would be eligible for the program. It’s open to anybody within Southwest Colorado,” Burns said.
Audra Snow, after-school programs supervisor of 9-R’s Kids’ Camp, said, “You know it’s a new era for educators when we hear children reminding each other about social distancing. The kids we serve have breakfast and lunch with us. They work on schoolwork provided by their teachers and they watch fun and educational movies – like the one about how some children in Colombia use ziplines to get to school.”
The Needham child care center is taking advantage of several of the classrooms specifically set up for pre-kindergarteners. The center has restrooms within the classroom creating a self-contained unit, Burns said.