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Michigan schools asked to open emergency child care centers for ‘essential workers’

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The $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan championed by the Biden administration extends a number of economic benefits to families with dependent children during the pandemic. (Shutterstock photo)
Bridge Michigan
Talent & Education
Michigan schools asked to open emergency child care centers for ‘essential workers’

March 30: Whitmer to end Michigan school year; seniors graduate, others move up

Some closed K-12 classrooms in Michigan are being retrofitted as temporary child care centers for children of "essential workers" ranging from doctors to grocery stockers needed to battle the coronavirus pandemic

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order late Wednesday relaxing some regulations around child care service. School officials had begun preparing classrooms earlier this week.

Pop-up child care centers may also be developed inside hospitals, according to the executive order.

Those available for the child care service include: health care workers, home health workers, direct care workers, emergency medical service providers, first responders, law enforcement personnel, sanitation workers, child care workers, personnel providing correctional services, postal workers, public health employees, key government employees, court personnel, and “those working in Michigan utilities, manufacturing, mass transit, grocery stores and “other essential supplies, goods or equipment.”

You can read the executive order here.

Those who qualify as essential workers can go to www.helpmegrow-mi.org/essential and your information will be routed to someone in your community who can help you find care. 

The order doesn’t address how the care would be paid for. “We’d love to know that answer,” said Scott Menzel, superintendent of Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

Peter Haines, superintendent of Ottawa Intermediate School District, told Bridge earlier Wednesday that “we await the governor’s executive order for specifics and regulations, but are already working to identify both existing capacity and potential need,” Haines said in an email to Bridge. He said the Ottawa ISD “is working collaboratively with other regional leaders and agencies and expects to meet the needs as they are clarified.”

Child care centers weren’t ordered closed when K-12 schools were shuttered this month, partly because administration officials were concerned that young medical professionals might be forced to stay home during the pandemic to care for their infants and toddlers at a time they’re desperately needed in hospitals.

The pop-up day cares are meant to provide essential workers a place to take their children if their current child care provider closes (some centers have closed voluntarily), or if a relative now watching children becomes ill. 

“Our health care workers and everyone who’s providing emergency medical services are doing incredible work to help us fight COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a news release late Wednesday announcing the executive order. “That’s why I’m taking action to expand capacity for child care services for these critical frontline workers. By expanding our ability to care for our children, we are allowing them to continue working and protect public health and safety. Child care services are essential to our collective effort, particularly while schools are closed. To all child care providers who are able and willing to remain open in Michigan, I thank you for your service and sacrifice during this time.” 

Menzel said the regulations relaxed in the order will allow school districts to quickly convert classrooms to daycare, “while still assuring the safety of children.”

The disaster relief child care centers must perform a health evaluation of everyone who enters the facility each time they enter, and they must deny entry to individuals who do not meet the evaluation criteria.  

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Menzel said superintendents were asked to prioritize placing child care in now-closed schools that are “close to hospitals” to make it more convenient for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

Maryland enacted a similar executive order expanding child care for essential workers March 14.

Haines said schools in Ottawa County are first trying to reopen child care classrooms that operated inside elementary schools but that were shuttered when Whitmer ordered all schools closed through April 6.

Menzel said he is working with Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti school districts to open what amounts to pop-up child care centers in schools

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