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Mount Vernon City School District Child Care Program Providing for Students and Families

About 24 students get dropped off at Holmes School each morning during the week for the essential worker childcare program. A total of 52 Mount Vernon City School District students, ages 3 through 12, are enrolled during this time when most school buildings are closed because of the mandate for residents to stay safe at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On March 18th, the district was the first in the state to create and deploy the program after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order in March mandating that school districts across the state provide daycare sites for essential workers. Originally, the order defined first-responder essential workers as firefighters, police officers, health care workers, bus drivers and MTA workers, but it was later opened up to other essential workers. 

For essential workers in the city who need to work and don’t have an option, such as extended family, to watch their children while they work, the district’s program is a great option.

“Our school district is about so much more than the education of our children,” said Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton. “The district has a moral imperative to support our community through this crisis and we are proud to fulfill this need for our essential workers who are keeping our community going and caring for our residents and others in this region in such a difficult time.”

Superintendent of Buildings & Grounds Michael Pelliccio has an entire cleaning team in place at the building at 5:30 each morning to ensure the staff and students are in a safe environment. Before the doors open at 7 a.m., the building and its classrooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. The rooms are staffed with cleaning personnel and are surface-cleaned throughout the day (such as before and after meals and every half-hour). The buildings are then cleaned and sanitized again after the program ends each evening at 6 p.m.

The program was organized and directed by Dr. Gayle White-Wallace, Director of Pre-K & Special Projects. Most workers in the program are non-permanent staff – like substitute teachers and teaching assistants in each of the classrooms, per diem cleaners and per diem security officers. There are also district staff, such as a program administrator, nurse, security guard and secretary who are in the building each day.

To maintain social distancing rules, the program has up to eight students and one or two adults in each classroom. The students are divided into classrooms based on their age – 3- and 4-year-olds; 5 and 6; 7 and 8; 9 and 10; and 11 and 12. The program utilizes between five and 10 classrooms a day.

Teachers in the classrooms support the students’ assignments from their regular teachers. The students log onto Schoology each morning and complete their Schoology assignments.

“This child care is not babysitting,” Dr. White-Wallace said. “This child care also provides a safe place. It provides students with the opportunity to access technology where they may not have technology at home. It provides them with small group support for the academic tasks that have been given to them from their teacher.”

The students also have a 45-minute unstructured gym session each morning and afternoon where they do activities, such as workouts or games that still maintain social distancing. Crews then clean and sanitize everything after each session and then again at the end of the day.

For breakfasts and lunches each day, the students are given meals from the district’s Grab and Go Meal Program.

“Our school district is more than just a beacon of instruction and books and ABCs during this pandemic,” Dr. White-Wallace said. “Our school district really focuses on equity, social justice, and supporting the community, in addition to educating our children.”

In addition to helping the students, the program helps the parents sustain a living and allows the district’s team, who would otherwise not be currently employed, to also have employment at this time.

Essential workers who still need child care should contact Dr. White-Wallace at 914-358-2402.