GARFIELD PARK — Marillac St. Vincent Family Services has begun reopening its in-person day care, summer camp and youth programs, giving parents headed back to work a needed child care option.
Programs had been temporarily shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s returned with reduced capacity: Classroom sizes have also been reduced to 50 percent capacity and below to facilitate social distancing.
The children are “continuing learning and social emotional development,” said Maureen Hallagan, Marillac’s chief operating officer. “We did decide to do it slower than just bringing everybody back, just so we can keep on top how people are doing.”
The organization put together a reopening task force during the shutdown to create strategies and systems for how they would safely welcome kids back to the programs when the time came.
Marillac has implemented all the usual safety protocols, requiring face coverings and creating a sanitation and handwashing regimen. The organization is also doing daily temperature checks to screen for coronavirus.
In the early childhood programs, Marillac has opened 10 classrooms. Programs for school-aged kids and teens are staggered so about 30 come each day on a rotating basis. Youth are selected to rejoin their programs based on need. Students who aren’t yet back at the center are still participating through virtual learning.
Hallagan said since schools have been closed, it is good for parents and kids to bet back into structured programs “so they can begin at least a little bit getting back to their routines.”
Jaleesa King is a parent with three kids who recently returned to Marillac. King has been involved with Marillac programs since she was a freshman in high school taking part in After School Matters, so she felt safe relying on their day care and youth programs while she was at work until the pandemic.
“When they first closed due to COVID … I didn’t know who was going to watch my kids,” King said.
Now that Marillac has reopened, King said her mind is at ease knowing her kids will be taken care of while she’s at work.
“My kids are happy to be back with their friends,” she said.
The organization’s food pantry has stayed open, and many other services have moved online, including case management and senior services.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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