File photo

Kootenay Columbia School District offering school care for children of essential workers

Care is being offered in Trail and Castlegar.

Children of essential workers in the Kootenay-Columbia School District (SD20) now have a place to go while their parents are at work helping to keep the community safe and COVID-19 at bay.

SD20 has set up a school care program at two sites in the district. Children of Tier 1 essential workers from kindergarten to Grade 5 can attend the program at either the SD20 board office or Stanley Humphries Secondary School.

RELATED: COVID-19 essential workers can apply for B.C. pre-school child care

Tier 1 essential workers include people in the heath care, health services, social services, law enforcement, first responder and emergency response fields.

Both facilities were chosen because of their large, open spaces. The board office is located in a decommissioned middle school, so both of the facilities have gymnasiums, libraries and multi-purpose rooms.

The program began April 20 and about 20 children a day have been participating. Each site is staffed with educational assistants and a principal, vice principal or supervisor. The maximum ratio of children to adults is eight to one, but so far the district has been able to keep that ratio at six to one.

SD20 superintendent Bill Ford says the next step for the district is to expand the service to Tier 2 essential workers.

Ford says the district is trying to remain flexible and responsive while trying to meet the needs of their students.

RELATED: Learning from home may present challenges for young students amid COVID-19

The district has redirected the funding used to offer breakfast and lunch programs while school is in session to providing food cards to families in need. Families can be referred to the program through their school’s child care workers or through their teachers.

The district has also been creative in trying to keep its employees working. School bus drivers have been repurposed for a number of tasks including supervising the retrieval of belongings and ensuring social distancing is maintained in school facilities.

Even with a pandemic looming, the work of a school board must go on. SD20 board members are in the middle of their annual budgeting process. The public has the chance to give feedback on next year’s budget by taking a survey on the district’s website. The survey closes April 23.

District staff are also busy at work organizing staffing for the next school year.

“There is still work to be done, despite a pandemic,” said Ford.

“We are working hard to meet the expectations put on all of the school districts. We have lots of things to be proud of — things have gone really well for us during this transition.”

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