Battle Ground Public Schools is offering free child care for the children of first responders and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Any child in the district in kindergarten through fourth grade is able to attend classes and activities between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. at either Captain Strong Primary School (1002 NW Sixth Ave., Battle Ground) or Pleasant Valley Primary School (14320 NE 50th Ave., Vancouver).
According to Mike Michaud, the director of instructional leadership for early childhood and primary school at Battle Ground Public Schools, the two schools were chosen due to their locations in the district with Captain Strong Primary servicing those in the northern parts of the district and Pleasant Valley taking care of the south end.
“We also chose Pleasant Valley because it’s near both the Vancouver Clinic in Salmon Creek and the hospital,” Michaud said, feeling that it would save healthcare workers time on their commute.
While the program originally started servicing the children of healthcare workers and first responders, Michaud said the district would start offering childcare to grocery store employees starting Monday, April 6.
“We’re working on communication efforts right now so those families know they’re included,” he said.
The program started on Monday, March 23, after BGPS followed the recommendations of Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and Gov. Jay Inslee to offer care for the children of essential workers.
“We started by sending out a survey to all of our kindergartens through fourth-grade families,” Michaud said. “And, based on those responses, we felt like 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week would meet the needs of a majority of our community.”
Michaud explained that the program is offered on a drop-in basis and can be used as needed throughout the week.
“Some parents choose to bring their children at 8 a.m. and stay for the duration until 6 p.m. while others are dropping them off at 10:30 and picking them up at 3 O’ clock. It really just depends on the work schedule and the need of each individual family.”
In regards to safety, Michaud said each student and volunteer goes through a “wellness check” health test that includes taking the temperature of the attendees to avoid spreading any pathogens. Along with this, Michaud explained that only 10 people will be in each room at a time, two adults with eight children being the maximum.
“We’re taking the typical precautions of social distancing and making sure everyone’s safe,” he said, talking about keeping the children as far apart as they can.
Michaud also explained how he and the district will continue to monitor and adjust the program as more information comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other governmental health institutions.
“We’re updating and making adjustments daily based on information from outside sources,” he said.
Along with being at schools in Battle Ground, each adult in the program is an employee of the district in some fashion. From nurses to special education teachers, each professional has already gone through a background check by Battle Ground Public Schools.
“We ran a full day of training for everyone on Friday before all this started,” Michaud said.
As for the day-to-day activities in the program, Michaud said the kids participate in everything from literacy activities to physical education.
“The activities range from science lessons to art lessons,” he said, also mentioning that students also get access to breakfast, lunch and snack time.
BGPS spokesperson Rita Sanders said students don’t need to be in the program to receive a free breakfast and lunch and any student in the district up to the age of 18 can receive free meals from schools during weekdays.
“Anyone from zero to 18 can get breakfast and lunch in front of all of our primary schools, Amboy Middle School and Battle Ground and Prairie High Schools,” Sanders said.
Michaud and Sanders expressed appreciation for everyone involved in the process of getting childcare started.
“I’m very proud of the way that members of all departments in the school district came together in a very short amount of time to put together a product that we are very proud of,” Michaud said. “It’s definitely been a team effort.”