INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Education is encouraging the state's closed schools, operating under distance learning methods amid the global coronavirus pandemic, to open their doors for child care services.
In new guidance issued Tuesday, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick recommended allowing one school per local education agency, or school district, to reopen to provide child care services for district-enrolled students ages 12 and under.
The new recommendations are not a mandate, McCormick said in a Wednesday press conference, but are encouraged to help support the families of those deemed to be essential workers, allowed to leave their homes and report to work as usual under Indiana Gov. Eric's Holcomb's recent stay-at-home order.
When the IDOE last surveyed school leaders on March 19, McCormick said, half of Indiana's districts signaled they had established child care services.
"Our charge under the governor is to expand that in making sure that we are taking care of those who need child care so they can operate for the essential needs of the state of Indiana," McCormick said.
Last week, Holcomb ordered all public and private schools through May 1, leaving families working across the state in essential fields like health care, food service and emergency response in search of child care services.
The IDOE is now recommending districts partner with local agencies, such as Boys & Girls Clubs and the YMCA, to open school buildings as child care centers that provide supervision in groups of eight children served by no more than two staff members to adhere to social distancing recommendations advising no more than 10 people to meet in one room at a time.
Centers are also advised to provide nursing services and implement daily temperature screenings to allow children entrance to the child care facilities. Any child with a temperature in excess of 100.4 degrees should not be allowed to stay, the IDOE recommends.
School staff should also be checked and screened before entering the school with districts advised not to employ staff members who are considered to have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
The IDOE is now working to identify areas in greatest need of child care services, McCormick said Wednesday.
The Family and Social Services Administration has recommended all child care centers active before school closures began remain open as an essential service to take in those younger students.
In Marion County, which has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, the city of Indianapolis is partnering with local organizations to provide discounted child care programs for the families of first responders.
In the Region, a number of local providers have chosen to remain open. Geminus' Early Learning Connections team is working to refer parents in need of quality child care to local licensed providers.
Referral specialists with Brighter Futures Indiana are also working to service families statewide through a referral specialist hotline at 800-299-1627.
More resources on Indiana's response to COVID-19 are available at doe.in.gov/safety/health/covid-19-resources-indiana-schools.
Crown Point Community School Corp.
Duneland School Corp.
Gary Community School Corp.
Hanover Community School Corp.
Lake Station Community Schools
Merrillville Community School Corp.
Michigan City Area Schools
Portage Township Schools
River Forest Community School Corp.
School City of East Chicago
School City of Hammond
School City of Hobart
School City of Whiting
School Town of Highland
Tri-Creek School Corp.
Union Township School Corp.
Valparaiso Community Schools
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.