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Spokane Public Schools opens third child care for first responder's children

Due to demand, SPS added a third site for first responders and health care worker families.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The governor's orders to stay at home means some parents can watch their children while they're out of school, but for parents who are first responders, staying home isn't an option. 

That's why Spokane Public Schools opened a third child care site on Thursday specifically for those families.

It's not the most traditional way to enter a childcare center. When families enter the building they are greeted with a person waiting to see if they're permitted to enter. A health screening is required for entry at all three of the child care sites offered by SPS.

"We ask them a couple questions, we take the kid's temp. Those are ways we're trying to reduce access to the buildings," explained Jason Lesley, SPS Express Supervisor.

It's the district's hope that families can make arrangements during the governor's stay at home order, but they understand some families work for essential businesses, such as first responders and health care workers.

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Registration is steady, according to Lesley, and they are keeping up with demand. Each facility has a capacity of 25 kids to ensure social distancing and required staff per student ratio. Two of the child care centers are full, which is why they opened up a third. If demand continues, the district is prepared to open up 7 more locations if needed, serving up to 250 children.

"You know I'd love to say that everything is great and we'd get up to that capacity (250 children), but things are changing every day as you know," Lesley added.

SPS isn't saying where the locations are for privacy reasons, and likely because they can't accept every family. Lesley said these facilities are strictly for first responders.

Aside, from checking their health when they walk in, the kids are split into small groups of less the 10 and yes, even the kiddos are told they need to stay six-feet away from their friends.

"But it's really hard, and I think it's a challenge for our staff. How do we get into this grove of social distancing when child care programs and kids want to be next to each other and they want to be super social," Lesley said.

Staff admit it's not your typical childcare facility. They've had to think out-side-the box, especially since some kids stay with them for 12 hours.

"We're coming up with new and creative ways to play traditional games and that's finding gym games that might have less player than normal," he explained.

Each facility has strict policies of who can even be in the facility, and staff are constantly sanitizing high touch areas and toys. 

To see if you qualify for child care at one of the facilities you can e-mail expressbilling@spokaneschools.org or call 509-354-7312. 

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