Childcare during crisis


Despite the state-wide stay-at-home order, there are thousands still working outside the home across the county. From doctors and nurses on the front lines to those stocking the store shelves, making sure we have something to eat. But last week when local schools and daycares shut down, many parents began to panic. Luckily, there are still a few standing in that gap.

Things look a little different at the Boys and Girls Clubs right now. The secret handshakes have become hands-free-shakes.

“We practice social distancing, keeping six-feet away. I have handshakes with all the kids. We’ve just kind of adapted and kind of used spaces or made new ones to kinda keep it fun and fresh.”

Henry Chatman is the so-called director of fun at the Boys and Girls Club on Niles Street. Another change at the club, no visitors allowed inside. Including media. “We’ve changed our health protocols. It smells like hand sanitizer and Pine-Sol. I get my temperature taken every day when I walk through the door,” says Zane Smith, executive director.

And they hope to keep those doors open as long as possible, for parents like first responders, doctors and nurses and grocery store workers who can’t work from home. “There are parents that have no option and they’ve got to stay employed. We don’t want kids at home left unsupervised,” says Smith.

The Boys and Girls Club has three stand-alone locations in Kern County. They’re caring for about 300 kids each day. Not to mention the meals they are serving to hundreds of members and non-members at five locations, seven days a week.

But over at the Small Wonders Preschool in northwest Bakersfield, enrollment has plummeted. Usually the halls and classes are packed. Director Lori Rogowski says they had about 30 kids this past Tuesday when they typically have 270. “We are opening our enrollment to the first responders of our community, all of the essential personnel, fire, medical personnel. We want our first responders to have a safe place for their children to go while they’re out there fighting the battle on the front lines.” And they’re open to changing hours, with the changing times, if there’s a need to stay open later or on the weekends. “Valley Baptist is just really thankful that we can stay open for at least this time and provide this essential service for those in our community who need childcare, because we depend on them to do their jobs,” says Rogowski.

Boys and Girls Club is not charging parents right now, just asking them to make a donation if they can. Aera Energy has pledged to match community donations of up to $100,000, to support childcare and meals at the clubs during the COVID-19 crisis. You can donate here:

If you’re looking for a daycare that’s still open right now, you can call Community Connection for Childcare at 861-5200.

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