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New YMCA Childcare Sites Serve Kids of Essential Workers

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The YMCA is opening its childcare programs at a reduced cost to essential workers, and says it can increase capacity beyond the currently available 500 slots.

The YMCA has opened its Downtown Richmond, Shady Grove, Tuckahoe, Midlothian and Chester locations to provide essential workers with childcare at a reduced cost.

The services are provided to kids in kindergarten through middle school on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Each of the five sites has capacity for about 100 kids, with the potential to expand if demand exceeds that.

“We had talked to local school systems that are willing for us to use schools if we need to grow the capacity of those spaces,” said Abigail Farris Rogers, executive vice president of the YMCA of Greater Richmond. “But in the beginning we were able to pivot quickest in our own spaces.” 

Farris Rogers says the sites were previously empty, after Governor Northam’s directive to close gym facilities. Now they’re back online, and are adhering to the governor’s guidelines of no more than 10 people per room.

“And so we're looking at eight or so students per ‘huddle,’ that way we have one counselor and then potentially a specialist,” said Farris Rogers. She says they’ve had to think creatively about the kinds of activities they’re doing with kids, turning to things like yoga.

“Our sports activities are very different because we're not doing, you know, basketball or soccer, ones in which we would come into physical contact with other students,” Farris Rogers said.

And while they’re charging a reduced rate - $15 a day for one child, and $10 for every additional child, compared to their regular $40-a-day summer camp rate – they will work with families to provide care on a sliding scale if this is too steep for families to afford. 

“There's always going to be a sliding scale,” Farris Rogers said. “And we're going to work with any family to understand what their need is and how we might serve them.”

Right now, Farris Rogers says there’s plenty of room for kids at all five childcare sites. Families can register their children in-person or online.

The Richmond YWCA announced Wednesday that they’re opening their preschool to serve young children of essential workers. The center is open to toddlers ages 18 months to 5 years old from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

They’re charging $250 per week, which also covers food, and diapers. But they’re also offering a sliding scale fee and full scholarships to families who qualify. Those interested in applying for one of the 55 slots can email [email protected].

Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia
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