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Daycare Centers For Essential Workers' Kids Offer Glimpse Into Future Of Child Care During COVID-19 Pandemic

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) - As more COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, the people who have been taking care of the children of essential workers have seen what the future looks like for daycare, summer programs and schools, as cities reopen.

When emergency room nurse Cheyenne Lang goes to work at Seton Medical Center, she knows her 11-year-old daughter Luci Ena Tiziano is in good hands. She sends her to daughter to the North San Mateo Boys and Girls Club, in South San Francisco.

"It's really been a lifeline to have this available," Lang said. "I really appreciate what they've done here."

The peninsula Boys and Girls Club one of 700 Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide that remained open to care for children of essential workers during the shelter in place. 

Thanks to foundation subsidies, parents pay a discounted rate - $1.67 an hour - for ten hours.

For kids, it's kind of like summer camp.

"I can actually see other kids even though it's not like real summer, 'cause we can't touch each other and stuff. But you know it's pretty fun," Luci Ena said.

The way this club operates under the COVID-19 restrictions serves as a model for others. 

For example, there are no contact sports. Equipment gets cleaned a lot and kids don't share it.

The focus is on individual activities, with students distanced, whether in calisthenics or in the classroom.

Parents stay outside and kids have temperatures taken, but as senior program director Rolando Madrid explains, only when they are inside.

"Temperature checks don't work well on windy days because the wind plays a role with the thermometer," Madrid said.

A dedicated person disinfects every room and item, and kids wash their hands when they come and go.

To reduce exposure, students stay with the same cohort of 10, according to CEO Aubrey Merriman.

"We're making sure siblings are in the same cohort. So in the unfortunate incident where a sibling gets sick, it's at least contained to that cohort of ten," Merriman explained.

He says childcare may be allowed to expand to 12 kids per group.

"So even with that, we'd go from 70 to 84, which is less than a third of the entire capacity of the building," Merriman said. 

That means going forward enrollment will be much smaller as after school child care and summer camps start up again.

"We try to really comfort our young people, let them know we're taking precautions but that we're still the same people and we're still going to connect, motivate and mentor," Madrid said. 

This club now advises other youth programs that are calling, asking for best practices, as they are shaping their own guidelines for reopening.

There are a lot of hoops to jump through, but leaders at the North San Mateo County Boys and Girls Club say they're introducing the first key steps into a smaller safer new future.

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