ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) has created a task force with organizations and churches in the area to establish new day programs for parents to offer to their children who are impacted by alternative school schedules courtesy of the pandemic.

“With the current schedule we are having to adopt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that parents are facing some significant challenges when it comes to child care. This is a challenge facing our entire community and we’ve brought together many community partners to help find and develop opportunities for families who need strong academic support programs for students, especially those in third to sixth grade, who otherwise might be home alone on days not in school.”

Dr. Ken Nicely, Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent

This task force was created to connect families to local resources that will provide low-cost childcare for students through age 12 impacted by COVID-19 school scheduling. It brings together non-profits that have existing programs, the faith-based community which has potential sites for more programs, and other community members looking to help.

Organizations taking part in the task force include the YMCA, The United Way of Roanoke Valley, Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Virginia, and the Prevention Council of Roanoke County Area churches.

“The faith-based community is ready to step up and meet the needs of many parents,” said Tom McCracken, pastor of CommUNITY Church in Salem.  “We’ve heard from several churches that are ready to host programs.  What we need right now is help from our community to make this happen.  We need people to work in these programs, we need donations to help keep these costs low and offer scholarships for students.”

As co-chair of the task force, Pastor McCracken says they are trying to connect the resources into a one-stop-shop, but they have a lot to work through first.

“We are trying to enable, engage, and equip our community to step up and make this a problem where all of us can be a part of the solution,” he said.

“A lot of laws, a lot of insurance, a lot of background checks. Each program is different and we are trying to develop some synergy and continuity that is unknown to parents right now,” said McCracken.

CEO for the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Virginia Michelle Davis says they will be flexible with their program as they move into the school year.

“We are going to have engaging programming for our students that includes the academic support they are going to need if they are doing virtual learning on the day they are with us. And making sure that we also focus on the fun things. On being outside, on being active, involved in recreation and healthy lifestyles,” Davis said.

She said both the club and the YMCA both have experience with keeping children safe during the pandemic.

“We both are extremely familiar with all of the sanitation requirements and health requirements. So we both follow VDH and CDC guidelines as well as our own organizational guidelines that are above and beyond,” she said.

Chris Martinez is the parent of a child that attends the YMCA summer program at Woodrow Wilson middle school, and he thinks it would be a helpful option for parents during the year.

“Right now I know that there’s probably a lot of parents, a lot of single parents that are trying to figure out how they are going to have their kids taken care of with this situation because at the end of the day we all have to work to provide for our kids,” he said.

Parents will need to fill out an online form to determine a family’s eligibility for programs including Head Start, Virginia Preschool Initiative, Private Childcare, Family Day Home Provider, or additional state and federal assistance.

To apply for day programs, fill out the online form by clicking here.

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