By ERIN ROLL
With the Montclair school district not opening its school buildings in the fall, demand for child care is even greater by parents who can’t work from home.
The district had planned to open up, with two four-hour sessions a week, but two weeks ago officials announced they would start with all-remote learning due to the pandemic and the need to update ventilation in the 100-plus-year-old schools.
The Montclair Y will again open up the Geyer Family YMCA on Glenridge Avenue to serve children in Pre-K through eighth grade during the day.
The tuition is $1,075 a month for the five-day program ending at 3:15 p.m., and $1,295 a month for the program ending at 5:45 p.m. Both programs start at 7:45 a.m. Financial assistance will be available for families who require it.
“We’ve been doing this since March, so we feel very confident,” CEO Buddy Evans said about the Y providing care for the children of essential workers during the spring, after child-care facilities, except those serving essential workers, were ordered to close during the height of the pandemic.
The Y has operated with strict health and safety controls during the pandemic, including temperature checks at the door and social distancing guidelines, and those guidelines will continue, Evans said. Additionally, he said, the ventilation system is prepared.
“We literally just had a new HVAC put in this year,” he said.
The Geyer Family YMCA is a newer building, having opened its doors in 2007.
One of the challenges will be capacity. The Y has space for 138 children. The district has approximately 4,500 students in grades K-8. However, the Y also serves students from districts outside of Montclair, such as Verona, Glen Ridge and Bloomfield.
Ten students will be in each pod, which will be kept separate from each other. Each pod will have a staff member assigned to supervise and assist students with technical and other needs, but there will not be any instruction. Evans said that there are 14 classrooms and workshops in the building, and a kitchen used for cooking classes.
The Y’s signup portal opened for registration on the afternoon of Aug. 19, with 49 families signing up within two hours. Evans said Monday that a total of 66 children were registered.
Y officials are also looking to use the Charles H. Bullock School as a second facility. The Y staff is licensed to offer child care at Bullock, Evans said, and since the building is new, it is likely to have air conditioning that meets state health requirements.
Montclair Public Library Director Peter Coyl said the school district had not yet made a request to use the library building, which is still closed, as a learning hub. However, he said the library has been in talks with the schools about different ways the library could assist during remote learning.
Officials have not approached Essex County about using the county-owned Wally Choice Community Center as a learning hub, Essex County spokesperson Anthony Puglisi said.
School officials said that they are not considering any plans at this time to use any of the schools as secondary child-care centers.”We have a working partnership with the YMCA, and it is one that we highly value, as their service to the community is to be commended. The district is committed to this continued partnership,” Superintendent Jonathan Ponds said when asked about Bullock being used as a facility.
When asked if the district was consulting with other groups that could host students in learning hubs, Ponds said it was a work in progress, and details would be made available on the district website.
Some parents have inquired about using the school buildings as learning hubs or child-care facilities, which Ponds said would not be possible during ongoing repairs to the ventilation systems, which are required to reopen facilities.
While many families within the district have chosen to create small pods for learning, many others do not have the financial means to do so, Evans said. No child will be turned away from the Y because of the family’s inability to pay; financial assistance will be offered on a sliding scale.
The Y also will work with the family to arrange deferred payments if necessary.
Students participating in the Y’s program will have to bring their own laptop or tablet, their virtual learning schedule and their login and password information.
Additionally, the Y will have some devices available if a child needs one.
The Y will offer healthy snacks and meals, STEAM- related activities and chances for outdoor play.