The Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) has taken on an important new role in the COVID-19 crisis since Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order No. 2020-16 on March 18.
The order requests that intermediate school districts coordinate with local child care providers to provide emergency child care for workers deemed essential during the outbreak.
"We understand, as a school system, that we have an important part to play. We know that schools being closed puts immense strain on people, especially the essential work force," says Ashley Kryscynski, a WISD communications and public relations specialist. "We're rallying to care for the children of those who are still out there serving our communities."
Kryscynski underscores that WISD's mobilization efforts are bolstered by the strong relationships WISD has with child care agencies, especially with Child Care Network, which is Washtenaw County's regional resource center for child care needs.
Alan Oman, WISD's executive director of early childhood programs, has been in daily contact with Child Care Network, sometimes multiple times a day, according to Kryscynski. The focus is twofold.
"They're working very diligently to manage incoming requests from essential workers so we are able to match them as quickly as possible with providers, as well as managing and monitoring the capacity of our providers that are open," she says.
While stressing that the goal is to give relief to essential workers in all sectors, Kryscynski says critical workers at the two major health systems now have additional options for child care.
"We had heard early on and pretty quickly that St. Joe's and U-M hospitals were having difficulties filling shifts when schools closed and private child care providers started to close," she says. "Now U-M has a designated child care provider, as does St. Joe's."
She adds that other providers have reopened or shifted their mandate to be an emergency child care provider for essential workers.
WISD will be monitoring the centers' capacities daily. Currently, they still have the ability to serve more people. But in anticipation of that possibly changing, WISD is planning ahead by working with local school districts to identify any sites that can function as emergency child care centers.
"Ann Arbor Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools have both already said that they would be willing to take on this responsibility and partner with us," Kryscynski says. "We are not at the point now, but we are thinking ahead so that we can support every single essential service worker out there."
Essential workers searching for child care are encouraged to complete a short survey that will allow WISD to connect them with providers that have openings.
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of WISD.