GRANT COUNTY — In addition to ordering the closure of all K-12 schools in the state, Governor Jay Inslee has asked district superintendents to provide childcare free of charge for healthcare workers and first responders who are working parents during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The decision was made to mitigate the impact on staffing in these critical fields, and while districts may consider additional childcare options, the focus should be on those workers, said Inslee and state Superintendent Chris Reykdal in a Friday news conference.
“We are really asking people to consider the schools as the childcare center of last resort, and we want to make sure the priority of that is for healthcare workers,” Inslee said. “Because we simply cannot have nurses leaving hospitals when they become deluged with patients to take care of childcare. Same thing with first responders.”
Though in-person classes have been suspended for all public, private and charter schools, schools are still allowed to open their doors for certain activities, including providing special education services and childcare. In Friday’s news conference, Reykdal acknowledged concerns that providing childcare could still create possible vectors for the novel coronavirus to spread, but said it was necessary to support vital industries.
“This is a balancing act,” Reykdal said. “We’re going to reduce the spread of this, but there’s a reality too, not every parent can say we’re not going to work anymore and I’m going to be with my child.”
However, due to the abrupt nature of the closure announcement, local healthcare facilities and school districts are still in the process of creating childcare plans.
Stephanie Melcher, Marketing and Communications Director with Community Health Center, and Quincy Valley Medical Center CEO Glenda Bishop both indicated that they had been developing staffing plans, but had expected more time to prepare.
No district that the Herald spoke with indicated that it had finalized childcare plans as of Sunday evening, though plans are expected during the week ahead.