Baby care openings, staffing stay struggles for native suppliers
Federal support for childcare facilities and families is provided through the federal government’s $ 900 billion COVID-19 aid package.
However, Sequim and Clallam County’s vendors continue to say that space is limited and potential employee pools are sparse.
Multiple outlets report that roughly $ 10 billion of the package is earmarked for childcare support grants for cleaning supplies, payrolls, and more.
Clallam County has had a tough time finding a place to have a child before the pandemic, and it remains difficult in the area nine months after the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s always been a problem,” said Mary Budke, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs on the Olympic Peninsula. “The pandemic just brought it to the surface.”
Clallam County has 26 daycare vacancies from licensed providers, according to recent data from Child Care Aware of Washington, the state’s official COVID-19 communication, response, and referral center for childcare.
Charlie Bush, manager of Sequim City, said there were only eight spots available for children ages 5 to 12 in Clallam County as of June.
At the beginning of the year there were 41 licensed childcare facilities in the district, but the closings fluctuated between nine and twelve facilities through 2020. Ten stayed closed in mid-December, said Marcia Jacobs, communications and marketing manager for Child Care Aware of Washington.
“Some providers are taking care of fewer children due to physical distancing measures, and some parents work from home and keep their children at home,” said Jacobs.
“Other providers have hired staff to look after more children since some programs were closed. Some of the new children that some providers have hired are school age. “
At school age
Business partners Erin Bell and Helana Coddington, co-owners of Sequim’s Little Explorers Early Learning Center, 191 W. Sequim Bay Road, continue to monitor their three school-age children at the under-5 facility while their public schools continue to operate remotely .
“It has been a huge challenge for us to run our business and work with our children on their education,” said Bell.
Bell’s daughter works from a computer in the office, while Coddington’s sons work from computers in the break room.
“You want to go to school so badly,” Coddington said. “You just want to get up here. There are so many distractions. “
With a government waiver, they are allowed to watch their children there, but it takes places from the facility, which is licensed for 36. If schools reopen on a hybrid schedule in early 2021, Bell and Coddington hope they can schedule it so their kids can go on different days to open a place for a preschooler.
Nicole Goettling, owner and director of Bibity Bobity, 11 Childers Lane in Carlsborg, said that when the pandemic started, parents of toddlers pulled out of the facility the most, but she expanded the program into school-age.
In normal times, children from 6 years old would come after school, but now 17 are enrolled from kindergarten to 12 years old.
“We are still pretty full in certain age groups and a good school age size makes up for the gap,” said Göttling.
When school-age children go back to school, she said they would start another preschool class because Bibity Bobity has a waiting list.
Licensed child carers are provided with a 17-page list of recommendations to follow, such as: B. Compliance with 6-foot distances in the facility, Bell said.
However, with limited space and colder, wetter weather, some have been more difficult to follow, she said.
In the summer, Little Explorers split their preschool groups, but reunited in mid-November due to bad weather.
However, Bell said the staff are trying to “do as much out of time as possible”.
“It’s good for everyone,” she said.
However, your business and Bibity Bobity work with less while they have to do more.
“This is the smallest staff I have ever had,” said Göttling of her nine employees (including herself).
“We just trudge away. Without grants, it would have been Touch and Go. Grants have helped me keep people busy. “
Even with federal, state, and local funding, local vendors such as Bell and Coddington said that finding employees remains their greatest challenge.
“We hardly had any applications for vacancies and therefore had fewer hours,” said Bell.
In November, pre-school hours were temporarily extended until a teacher asked them to cut the hours again.
“Before COVID, it was already fighting,” said Bell. “We live in a rural area, the wages aren’t great, there isn’t a big pool of people and then the pandemic happened.”
With 10 employees including themselves, Bell and Coddington said “that’s just a bare minimum” for the place they would like to be.
In March, the Sequim Boys & Girls Club at 400 W. Fir St. started the pandemic with 35 children between the ages of 5 ½ and 14 and increased this number to 70.
Budke said the club initially only opened up to the children of key community workers with no one home. Now the department heads at the Sequim and Port Angeles clubs have some leeway to decide who can come home depending on the situation.
The new club in Port Angeles on Lauridsen Boulevard and Francis Street will expand Port Angeles’ capacity to 70 children, Budke said.
“We’re looking at some rooms that we can use,” said Budke. “The closer we are, the better. I don’t want kids to go everywhere as it increases the COVID impact. “
She said community donations have helped club members with technology by providing new computers.
“Our children are fine; People laugh a lot here, ”said Budke.
“With the help of the school districts, our employees do it as best they can. We know that it is best for children to be in a classroom. “
Another of her other concerns concerns teenagers who have been personally separated from their friends since March.
A coalition of childcare providers across Clallam County, including the Olympic Peninsula YMCA and the William Shore Memorial Pool District, continue to seek solutions for families.
Budke said, “no one can take care of all the children in the community” and that “there has never been such a spirit to help people” as there is now.
In December, Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush received city council approval to meet Sequim childcare needs up to $ 35,000 in December and January. Budke received general fund income to support distribution when needed.
“It’s a stressful environment right now and we’re trying to work with them as best we can,” said Bush.
At the beginning of the pandemic, those responsible for the city of Sequim were commissioned by the Clallam County Emergency Operations Center to follow up childcare problems in the county.
City officials said the funds would likely not be used if federal funds became available in 2021.
Child Care Aware of Washington is a nonprofit that provides free assistance for families to find local licensed providers and for providers who can find support to stay open and maintain supplies while meeting elevated state guidelines.
For more information, call 800-446-1114 or visit childcareawarewa.org.
Teacher Kate Merandy serves lunch for the children at Sequim’s Little Explorers Early Learning Center in late December. Co-owner Erin Bell said they are doing their best to follow health advice for the pandemic by getting outside as much as possible, but cold and wet weather and limited space prevent them in some ways. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash
In June, Sarah Schmedding plays with Harry Piper on the Bibity Bobity swings. The childcare space at Bibity Bobity in Carlsborg has largely remained the same, with school-age children representing the biggest change, says owner and director Nicole Goettling. They used to come after school, now they stay all day due to distance learning due to the pandemic. Sequim Gazette file photo by Matthew Nash