Orange County classrooms will be 100% online when school starts but the YMCA will be offering in-person care, learning support and physical education for children in Kindergarten through 8th grade at more than 40 sites across the county.

The YMCA of Orange County , a nonprofit organization, announced that they will be offering these services full time or part time to help meet the child care needs of working families during the Fall.

“While there is a public health crisis it is imperative to keep our schools safe, families should not have to choose between their children’s development and education and parental livelihoods and household health. We know this new format of schooling will have a major impact on families,”Jeff McBride, CEO of YMCA of  Orange County, said in the press release. 

During the start of the pandemic, the YMCA had been able to remain open exclusively for the children of essential workers.  

Anna Romiti, Vice President of Marketing & Communications for the YMCA of OC, said in an interview that as orders gradually lifted they were able to offer their summer camp programs to any family that wanted to be in the program. Parents can register for the fall program online.

There will be no limit to the number of kids that can enroll in the fall program. The child care programs are fee based and the non profit fundraises and receives grants to help families in need with financial assistance.

“We believe it’s important as do parents and schools, that children have the opportunity to have social engagements and they have the opportunity to go outdoors, that they have the opportunity to learn alongside their peers, (and) that they have the opportunity to do their distant learning,” Romiti said.

She also said because the YMCA has been working with Orange County Health County Agency they are allowed to operate and will be following guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and prevention. The state has also put out guidance for child care programmers and providers on how to safely offer services. 

The Orange County Health Care Agency has not responded to requests for comment on the YMCA announcement.

The program requires face coverings only when social distancing of 6 feet can not be maintained and temperature checks will be in place. Surfaces, supplies and equipment will be sanitized throughout the day and overnight, officials said, adding that children who show signs of being sick would not be accepted.

Romiti said there are also plans in place for if someone were to get sick but did not provide any specifics. More safety protocols can be found online.

“We do everything we can to mitigate the chance of that happening,” she said adding that groups are limited to 10 students and one teacher that will remain with each other throughout the day.

“We’re able to maintain that same group together to mitigate the risk of exposure,” Romiti said. 

The announcement comes nearly a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered schools in counties on a state monitoring list to start Fall classes virtually until they have been off that list for two weeks. 

Orange County is on that list and was in the midst of an intense debate over how to handle  instruction in the fall.

Many teachers in Orange County and across the country are uneasy or are scared to return to the classroom for fear of adding to the number of coronavirus cases and deaths.

Concerns over the quality of virtual education have risen up in the County following the Spring semester when the pandemic pushed districts into virtual learning, especially for students with disabilities who are struggling without the hands-on face to face interactions with their teachers. 

Romiti said children would be able to do their distance learning with the help of YMCA teachers during the program.

She added that the program isn’t just a daycare service it’s structured and curriculum based.

“We do art projects, we do science projects, we do community projects where sometimes we’re writing letters to local senior citizens home,” Romiti said about the program. “It’s a perfect fit since they can’t be on school campus because we’re able to infuse some of those aspects that they’re not getting.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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