MOUNT VERNON — Several local organizations are teaming up with the Mount Vernon School District to provide child care for Skagit County families who can't afford it.
The group's fundraising effort was kicked off by a $10,000 donation from Skagit Rotary. The group includes Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County, Skagit Valley Family YMCA, Children of the Valley and United Way of Skagit County.
Money raised will go toward hosting children of approved families on school campuses, with Mount Vernon School District staff supervising and helping children get set up with online learning.
Ron McHenry, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County, said local organizations have struggled to meet the needs of families during COVID-19.
"Financially, we can't meet the need out there," he said. "All of us feel we've exhausted our means to do so. Having to turn so many away has been hard. I hope this provides some resolution, or at least some badly needed assistance. Kids and families are having a rough time and we want it to be easier and better."
The fundraising effort began with the Mount Vernon School District, which foresaw a need for child care over the summer as it planned to start the school year with online learning.
Dan Berard, the district's executive director of categorical programs, said the effort was initially was driven by the school board and Superintendent Ismael Vivanco. From there, the district reached out to potential partners.
"We started a conversation of what we can do, and how we can keep it affordable," Berard said.
He said children of families who receive free or reduced-cost child care through the program will be able to access their school's online-learning resources, something with which some families have struggled.
"We want our kids back in school, in person, in the regular educational environment, and we're frustrated we can't do it," Berard said. "We're trying to do everything we can to bridge gap between what we have now and what we'll be able to do in person."
McHenry said, “For some families the stress and tension at 九游会官网网页版_j9.com真home … just having a place for their kids to go a few hours a day helps relieve that tension."
Between the Mount Vernon and Burlington-Edison school districts, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County is offering three full-day, in-person sites, and may open a fourth if needed, McHenry said.
“Right now the numbers are low but they’re high enough to warrant us running the programs,” he said.
McHenry expects there may be an increase in the number of families seeking full-day child care in the coming weeks, as parents may realize that initial plans — which might have consisted of older children watching their younger siblings — don't work well with the older siblings' online school schedules.
In the new reality of teaching kindergartners to use computers before they can even read, Boys & Girls Clubs staff will be able to help students access technology and tutoring, to have interaction with their peers and provide additional social and emotional supports, McHenry said.
“What’s focused on is providing the kids the technical assistance they need to participate,” McHenry said.
There will also be sessions that help students focus on building their soft skills, emotional awareness and mental health, he said.