Highline Public Schools offers childcare for working parents during COVID-19 pandemic

DES MOINES, Wash. -- Some working parents in south King County now have a place for their kids to go while schools are closed to reduce COVID-19 exposure. Governor Jay Inslee tasked school districts to create plans for childcare while kids are away from class during the coronavirus pandemic.

Highline Public Schools began offering childcare for families within the district, Wednesday. Childcare will operate at Midway Elementary School and White Center Heights Elementary, weekdays from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. The service is available only to parents who preregistered, and sign-up is now closed.

Some parents said they are grateful the district offered this support, otherwise, they would not have been able to go to work.

“I feel so blessed to be part of a community that really got together in the worst of times right now and immediately provided services for parents like us who needed to be there in the battlefield right now,” said Miriam Reyes, a Parkside Elementary parent.

Reyes said she is a single mother and child therapist for kids with Autism. Her son, Kenneth, is nonverbal autistic. She said she trusts her kindergarteners will be in the best care.

“They know him, they know me and they know what kind of needs he requires. So, I don’t have to depend on a stranger who doesn’t know my kids' needs because they already know him,” said Reyes. “I feel like I’m leaving him with family because that is how we are treated here in the district.”

Both schools hosting the childcare will serve no more than 40 students, Pre-K through 5th Grade only. Before going inside either building, the district said students and staff will be screened daily by a health services member. Nurses will use masks, gloves, and gowns during the daily health screenings. Staff will also have the protective gear and use it if they believe a child has symptoms.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided. The district said frequent hand washing and social distancing will also be practiced during childcare.

Highline outlined the childcare service plan on the district website. Part of the plan states childcare will be staffed by district employees, students will be monitored in a nine to one ratio, they will be separated in small groups and rotate throughout the building as well as outdoors.

Reyes said she believes the district has effective measures in place to protect students and staff from the outbreak.

“The safety of the students are paramount to the district, at least that’s how I have felt so far. And I don’t feel they’re going to make decisions that’s going to put kids at risk,” said Reyes. “They’re also making sure the staff that are volunteering their precious time are also safe to do their work.”

Highline Public Schools has a list of Frequently Asked Questions on its website. The Washington State Department of Health and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction have provided further explanation of childcare guidelines.

Parents in other communities are encouraged to contact their school district or search their website for childcare opportunities. Child Care Aware of Washington also has information available on its website to help parents looking for services.