Childcare options for working parents during remote learning

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s a nerve-wracking time for parents, wondering what their kids’ education will look like this school year. Champaign families heard new details just yesterday: all students will start at home. The district announced it’s going completely remote for the first quarter. Superintendent Susan Zola says it’s the safest option, but others don’t agree. They feel this is failing kids who need special attention.

We talked to one teacher who didn’t want to go on camera, but she says virtual learning doesn’t work for kids who have special needs or those who are younger. She says a lot of other teachers agree with her. Others are against the idea because of what it means for working parents, but there are new options out there to help.

For parents, teachers and students, this school year will be an adjustment. But with the switch to entirely virtual learning, some Champaign families are having to scramble to figure out what to do. Luckily there are safe options for childcare. One is La Petite Academy in Champaign.

“We’ve created something called the prep lab where we are going to incorporate our strong, school age curriculum that we have, and then accommodate virtual learning with our students that are nowhere full-time so that their parents can work,” said La Petite Academy Director Heidi Parker. She says they’ll do more than just watch kids. They’ll be there to guide them through virtual classes.

“While we are not elementary school teachers, we are early childhood educators, we are here to facilitate the logins and the staying on task, and in the meantime filling up their time with things they can do and get outdoor play,” explained Parker.

Champaign’s YMCA is also structuring its care around remote learning. They plan to keep kids limited to the same small groups and to limit class sizes.

“We’re gonna have 10 kids per room, with two staff helping with their curriculum,” said Champaign YMCA COO Jeff Dobrik. “We want to make sure the kids are socially distanced, wearing masks, as well as the staff. We’re planning to have curbside pickup when it comes to picking up their kid from their program, so nobody coming into the program or in the room that doesn’t need to.”

Parker says La Petite is doing the same. “We don’t allow visitors into our building currently so we can remain into our student and staff pods. Our classes are independent of each other.”

There is a cost associated with these programs. You do have the option to apply for scholarships or aid in some cases.

Parker says they are planning to maintain their same summer camp pricing throughout the school year. They also accept payments through the state’s Childcare Assistance Program. Their parent company also has partnerships with area companies like Kraft and the University of Illinois that provide assistance. They are also open to starting new partnerships. If you are unsure if your company has a partnership with them, contact your HR department.

Dobrik says they are still finalizing their prices. They want to make sure it’s affordable for families, but also that it helps cover staffing costs, supplies, rental agreements, etc. They do accept third party payments through the state. Families are also welcome to apply for a scholarship. If you have questions about what they offer and options for help, you can call them at (217) 359-9622.

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