‘We don’t pay our teachers enough’: Nevada County helps provide some essential workers child care
By the numbers
As of April 9
Number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada County: 34
Number in western county: 10
Number in eastern county: 24
Number of deaths: 1
Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus
There are many people working the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic: nurses and doctors providing direct care, grocery store clerks selling food, manufacturing employees often providing essential products and police officers and bureaucrats who have been ensuring safety and a continuity of local operations.
But what about the children of these workers — who watches over them while their parents serve the public?
Until about a week ago, the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools was arranging for child care services for Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital health care workers to occur at various school sites.
Now, the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services, in conjunction with nonprofits like the Child Care Coordinating Council for Nevada County and Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, is ensuring that certain essential workers have child care services. The recent change comes along with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Tuesday executive order making it easier to access subsidized childcare services for individuals whose incomes would otherwise be too high to qualify. Child care centers will be allowed state subsidies, as before, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits were relaxed to reduce food insecurity for children.
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Thus far, about 70 children have been identified across 35 families — including those who work at the hospital, in police and sheriff’s departments and in fire services. A survey recently sent out helped identify the children of those families who need to receive child care, according to Nevada County Senior Administrative Analyst Dave Jones.
Grocery store, mail, construction and other service workers were not included in this list.
There are about 110 licensed child care facilities in Nevada County that can oversee these children, according to Rossnina Dort, Child Care Coordinating Council director of early education services.
“I think this is really great because we’re making sure that our public system is supporting the ones that are on the front lines,” said Dort.
Although impressed with all of the child care centers that have helped essential service workers during this time, Dort said there are still holes in the system. First, there is a lack of sanitation supplies for child care providers.
“The shelves are empty,” said Dort. “All the supplies are being prioritized to hospitals.”
Owner of Grass Valley’s Small Wonders Childcare center Sara Van Liew noted how scary the moment is for her.
“It’s a little frightening. We can’t get some of the things we might need,” she said, noting that parents have been making masks for her, and donating toilet paper as well as sanitizing material for the child care center.
Dort also worries about the shortage of local child care programs, and the need to help other essential workers — like grocery and construction workers — during the public health crisis.
“We don’t have the number of child care programs to serve everyone,” she said. “We need to at least triple in count to support the number of children that need it right now.”
Those individuals who don’t have child care support are having to rely on family members and neighbors to help out, said Dort.
Sarah Van Liew, who is overseeing about nine children in total, said it’s difficult to ensure that kids stay six feet apart at her center. But despite that issue, she said she’s trying to ensure the moment doesn’t feel out of the ordinary for the children.
“We’re doing good,” she said. “My main goal is to keep life as normal as we can for them. They all seem to be doing OK.”
While continuing to provide her services, Liew questioned whether she should remain open during the pandemic, as she and her family members are more susceptible to contracting the virus.
“Am I doing what’s best for my family?” she asked rhetorically. “Do I close? Do I stay open?”
Ultimately, Liew said she’s happy to be able to help essential workers, and sympathizes with parents who are not accustomed to staying home with their children all day.
Grass Valley’s Yuba Blue owner Lillie Piland-Robertson is one of those parents.
“It’s been tricky, but we’re settling into a groove,” she said of watching over her daughter, who attends Seven Hills Middle School. “When faced with any challenge, you just adapt.”
The store owner said she’s been trying to institute a schedule to separate “mom’s work time” from homework and play time.
Sunshine Bender, who works on the San Juan Ridge and is a mother of 9-year-old twins, said feelings of isolation are particularly difficult for her children. Instead of being able to spend time with their friends, Bender said she’s using resources at her disposal to help educate and entertain her kids.
“We’re very reliant on technology right now,” she said. “I’ve been utilizing more digital resources to keep them engaged.”
Nevada County resident Sonya Wolf said that she’s been helping out her daughter by watching over her 8-year-old granddaughter through Xbox Live. When her daughter needs to do some house work or just take a nap, Wolf hangs out with her granddaughter by playing “The Elder Scrolls” with her online, and communicating via headset.
“It’s easy to spend hours playing together and it’s a nice way for us to stay connected with the distance between us, and the current corona situation,” Wolf said in an email.
Some parents, including Bender, have felt more appreciative for the role schools play in their children’s lives as they now have the opportunity to more deeply evaluate their personal teaching skills.
“I can tell you that we don’t pay our teachers enough because I’ve wanted to fire myself a few times,” joked Bender.
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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