Janesville Schools have canceled school starting Monday, and details are still being worked out about how and when students will be educated.
Meanwhile, with all schools closed across the state next week, the looming question in local working parents’ minds will be: “What do I do with my kids?”
On Monday, school district leaders will tackle questions such as how to move all students into online learning, what to do about students with special needs, how to provide school breakfasts and lunches to students in need, how to make up missed days and other complications from school closures.
Gov. Tony Evers announced the three-week, statewide school closure late Friday. Evers announced schools would be closed starting Wednesday at the latest, but several school districts, including Janesville, have decided to close starting Monday.
On Monday, Janesville School District building heads and other district leaders will report to work. In addition, other year-round employees such as maintenance and custodial staff should report to work, said Patrick Gasper, district public information officer.
Teachers and teachers’ aides do not have to report to work.
The Janesville School District is on spring break from March 23 to 27, so it will have to provide either two weeks of online learning or make up the days.
School closings opens a complex set of considerations linked to child care.
Among the impacts of the emerging COVID-19 crisis, working parents in the days to come will grapple with not just the health and wellbeing of their families but also the push and pull of two overlapping priorities: their work schedules and family responsibilities.
One local nonprofit official, Community Action of Rock and Walworth County’s Marc Perry, said his social service agency has been dealing with impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and its implications on vulnerable populations.
He expects the days to come could bring a wave of maydays from parents who might not have the option to take off work to care for their school-age students who won’t be in school or at after-school activities.
“People rely on school for their children for education but also a safe place where they are cared for. It’s going to create a huge issue for parents. If daycare was going to be the backup, then parents are going to have to make some drastic arrangements in terms of work or make some hard decisions about work,” Perry said.
Perry’s agency runs wraparound daycare and late-evening daycare centers that are geared for working families who need flexibility.
Many Janesville elementary schools also provide before and after school care.
He said Community Action’s centers, including the one on Janesville’s south side, are like many of the dozens of local child care centers across Rock County—they’re already at near-capacity. The specter of an additional load of children, even over a short-term, could pose a logistical and legal challenge.
State licensed daycare facilities are capped by regulations on the number of children they can serve based on facility size and staff-to-child ratio.
“You have several things at play. It’s, one, whether or not the daycares have the staff, and, two, whether or not the daycares have the class space. There are only so many kids you can fit in a room, and there is only so much staff working for a given organization,” Perry said. “Staff size and space is at a premium in our communities here. So, it’s not at all going to be a quick fix.”
Perry said it remains to be seen what other recommendations or edicts the state might hand down as officials move forward with a public-health response to COVID 19. His agency’s daycare and other daycares are looking at whether they’ll remain open during the coronavirus outbreak.
Perry said it’s possible the state could either mandate or recommend daycares close or follow stricter guidelines to stem any spread of coronavirus.
“We’re trying to keep pace with everything coming down, it seems like every five minutes the ground shifts. But as a community, we’re going to have to put our heads together to figure things out,” Perry said.
“We’re going to have to figure out how to make sure kids are taken care of.”