The YMCA of Northern Rock County is readying its buildings in Janesville and Milton to host child care for the kids of essential workers, opening as soon as Monday.
The Y buildings have plenty of space to allow social distancing as the YMCA converts its space to child care only, said CEO Angie Bolson.
The YMCAs—which served as exercise clubs, pools and sports centers for youth and adults—have been closed for the pandemic. Bolson said the organization will reopen at least one of its buildings, possibly both.
Each site can accommodate a maximum of 50 children and 10 staff members to comply with state licensing rules.
Bolson said her staff has received a lot of calls since they announced the plan last week. Now they are assessing the need.
Traditional child care runs during the day Monday through Friday, but people calling in have told the Y that some of them, particularly those in health care, need care at night or over the weekend, Bolson said.
Manufacturing, grocery, public safety and other workers listed in the state “Safe at Home” order all qualify as essential workers who can use the Y’s child care, Bolson said. Y membership is not required.
Bolson said the Y’s will be able to use their gymnasiums and outdoor play areas as part of their child-care program. At the same time, they must comply with state rules for social distancing and sanitation to keep the centers as safe as possible.
One measure is a drop-off location that is separate from the child-care area and medical checks of each child, including taking their temperatures, Bolson said.
Children who are “going to school” online will get help with that, she said.
The guidelines include mixed-age groupings so siblings can stay together and to limit exposure, she said. Kids from parents who have the same employers will be grouped together, as well, so that if one group gets exposed, it will be less likely to spread to another group and into other workplaces.
The YMCA accepts Wisconsin Shares child-care subsidies for low-income people, available through Rock County. The Y has financial assistance available, Bolson said.
Bolson said her staff is certified for child care. Some have been furloughed, and some have taken paid time off, so the effort will put them back to work.
Not all child-care centers have closed, by the way. Another option for essential workers is Community Action’s Community Kids at 2230 Center Ave. in Janesville.
Bolson doesn’t believe the Y will be overwhelmed.
“Based on other Y’s that are offering this across the nation, I don’t anticipate we will fill, but what a good problem to have if we do!” Bolson said in an email.
If the demand is overwhelming, “I am sure we would work with collaborative partners to find additional spaces within the community,” she said.