By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday that the city will provide free childcare for 100,000 students to help families manage “blended” online and in-person classes this fall.
A Department of Education survey of roughly 400,000 parents found that 75% of families wanted schools to reopen this September and were willing to send their children to in-person classes. De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza pitched two “blended learning” models for schools earlier this month a week ahead of the state’s deadline to issue guidance for localities on school reopenings.
Both plans require that all students take in-person classes two or three days a week with rotating cohorts of students and faculty. The first plan would allow for only 33% of student bodies and faculty inside of a school building during in-person classroom days while the second would allow for 50%.
“So many parents though have said that they can’t make it work if they don’t get more childcare,” de Blasio told reporters. “We’ve been trying to find every way to create new childcare and to build it from scratch, honestly.”
The city will scope out community centers, libraries and cultural organizations and “whatever we can find in communities,” de Blasio said, to find spaces that can adequately accommodate students while also observing state health guidelines. Only 15 students can be in a classroom at any given time, according to state requirements.
The city has yet to come up with complete programming for the new daycare sites but Director of the Office of Management and Budget Melanie Hartzog, also present at the press conference, said that activities would include arts and recreation, tutoring and field trips “where possible.” The city will provide programs with personal protective equipment like face coverings and hand sanitizer.
Some daycare slots will be available by the start of the school year, Hartzog promised, with more space to be made available on a rolling basis.
Hartzog, who previously was the deputy commissioner for the Administration for Children’s Services, is helping lead the way on the city’s childcare expansion after working to expand the city’s testing capacity, Mayor de Blasio said.