The Altavista Area YMCA offers exercise facilities, daycare and more—during the pandemic they’ve even turned into a school for some.
Though still technically daycare services, for the past several months the YMCA has had to provide daycare for a significant amount of children who would normally be in school every day, and need somewhere to go while not in school because of pandemic-related schedule changes.
Brynn Simons, Childcare Director at the Y, said many parents have depended on the YMCA’s childcare services this school year because of the pandemic.
“During a normal school year we don’t have any school-aged kids during the day except for holidays,” Simons said. “But this year, we have school aged kids every day.”
Simons said the childcare center had to juggle watching kids who go to school in the Gretna, Mount Airy and Hurt areas as well as many Campbell County students until students in Pittsylvania County were able to return to in-person learning in October.
“Each school basically had a different schedule that we were trying to accommodate,” Simons said.
Simons said students from different schools had to be kept separate from one another, and that scheduling activities for students from so many different areas could be difficult because of how complex school schedules have become during the pandemic.
Simons said these days the childcare center usually has at least 10 students per day, but has had as many as 15 to 20 during the past months and sometimes as many as 30.
Simons said the YMCA had to make new hires to keep up with increased childcare demands and rely more heavily on their college-aged employees, many of whom became unavailable once the school year started.
During the day YMCA staff created time blocks for students to work on their online schooling, sandwiched between enrichment activities, meal times and breaks.
Simons said many YMCA staff members have worked as teachers in the past or are working towards becoming teachers, but operating the childcare center during the pandemic has forced staffers to adapt nonetheless.
“We’ve had to be flexible and learn to acclimate to the new normal,” Simons said.
Simons said the Y typically only offers before and after school programs in its childcare center during the school year but is now offering 11 different types of contracts to meet parents’ differing needs.