Valhalla, New York, May 21, 2020
Easterseals New York is operating day care for children of first responders, health care workers, and other essential workers in Valhalla, New York.
Throughout New York State, massive shifts have occurred for workers, many of whom are parents who suddenly needed child care when schools closed. Although many office-bound parents could keep their children at home for remote education, parents who work in health care, as first responders, or in other essential functions needed help, and fast.
Easterseals New York’s Child Development Center in Valhalla, a town in Westchester County, rose to the occasion to provide drop-in day care for up to 30 students per day.
The school usually provides preschool for 150 children with disabilities, and after school programs for over 200. These children are now at home with their parents, many of whom are working from home, and the school’s team is keeping in touch with families and providing information and support remotely.
Alicia Wilson runs the program onsite, with a team of two administrators, a full-time nurse, two instructors, and a custodian – all following best practices for safety including regular cleaning, wearing masks, and frequent hand washing. Although the changes have been challenging for many, Alicia finds that the day care children are resilient. “The kids are doing great – they’re happy and they’ve been open to the physical spacing aspects of life today,” she notes. “We have a strong and resilient staff, and we’re here to serve the community.
Senior Director Marianne Gribbon describes the changes in protocols. “Our preschools quickly moved to online-remote learning, which gave us the space to provide children of first responders and essential workers quality care from 8am-6pm. We’ve improved our screening, disinfecting, and adhere to strict guidelines by wearing masks throughout the day. We were fortunate to partner with Valhalla and Mt. Pleasant School Districts to set up the center. We received additional referrals through word of mouth. We are currently surveying our families to see what additional care and supports we can provide during the summer months, when camps may not be available or offer minimal care.”
Parents are happy too – they’ve contributed to Friday pizza parties for all. The families are grateful they can send their children to a place they are familiar with and is within their community. The large facility offers a variety of indoor and outdoor activities while maintaining a 6-foot distance.
Don Harreld, Executive Director of Easterseals New York commended the team for their flexibility and service. “I thank the staff for their teamwork. We’re always open to hearing about resources we can share with the families we serve.”