LEXINGTON — Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lexington child care providers are starting to run out of cleaning supplies and are hard pressed to find more.
During the Lexington child care planning meeting, the new Communities for Kids, C4K, child care coordinator was introduced.
After meeting for 10 months, the Lexington child care team was looking coordinator to head up the effort to organize and direct the addition of more child care options in Lexington, as well as supporting the existing child care providers.
Alyson Young, a Cozad native, was recently hired to fill the role and met other members of the group via the Zoom meeting on Tuesday.
Young spoke of the child care situation in Dawson County saying, “child care is hard to find, quality care is even harder.”
Shortly after starting in the coordinator role, Young contacted child care providers in Lexington asking them what their needs were among the pandemic. While many people are working from home and can keep their children with them, several providers are still caring for the children of essential workers.
Across the board, Young said the providers which are still operating are in need of cleaning supplies, such as Clorox wipes and disinfectants. Young did note Chief Industries recently made a donation of hand sanitizer to several Lexington child care providers.
Amanda Berry, an in-home child care provider in Lexington also spoke to the need for more cleaning supplies and where they could be found.
Casey Madsen, who owns Learning Adventures Child Care in Gothenburg, and plans to open another center in Lexington, said while they are not caring for any children at the moment, the staff will be required to wear masks when they do open up, and parents bringing their children to the center will also be required to wear a mask.
Madsen had planned to open a new branch of her child care center in the basement of the First United Methodist Church. The opening date was set for late March, but the COVID-19 outbreak put the opening on hold.
Madsen foresees opening the Gothenburg center back up in early June, if the directed health measures are lifted on May 31. She said she plans to open the Lexington center a week later.
Young continued with the idea of creating a social media page for the Lexington child care providers as an easy way to communicate, as well as releasing a weekly newsletter with updates and to provider self-care tips during this, “uncertain, unknown time,” she said.
Nebraska Children and Families Foundation Assistant Vice President, Early Childhood Programs Shonna Werth spoke about the Professional Learning Series the child care team has been working on starting.
While the goal of the team has been to increase the number of child care spots in town, this won’t happen if there is nobody educated to care for children. The team has wanted to create a learning series which can teach people the basics required by the state to provide child care, as well as offering more advanced classes.
The team is hoping to attract anyone who is interested in working with children, and especially those high schoolers who want to go into early child care or education.
While the pandemic has thrown a wrench into things and prevented in-person meetings, the team thought this would be a good time to get people interested and involved in the classes, even if they start on digital platforms.
The plan is to offer an introduction and orientation on May 26 or May 28 via Zoom and then move to in-person classes as the situation allows. There will be a $20 fee to register for the classes.
Werth also said the team needs to develop goals and work plans for the next grant cycle. They also need to consider what to do with their current grant funds, as they need to be expended by the end of June. There was some discussion of helping out child care providers with their cleaning supply needs with some of these funds. Werth said the new funding cycle will start on July 1.
Werth also spoke of the survey which the child care team had put together in 2019 and had begun to distribute; a little over 100 replies were received. It was noted there was a lack of Latino and Somali replies, which are needed to provider a broader picture of the child care needs of Lexington.
Werth said the team cannot do much if they don’t have the data to back up their plans.