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Pasco schools plan to reopen child care service in June

The district’s academic summer program will remain a distance operation.
Maisyn Strowbridge, 4, (right) sings while building a snowman Florida style during a special winter activity held at the Pasco Learning and Activity Center of Enrichment (PLACE) at Fox Hollow Elementary School in Port Richey. Also pictured are Myrah Almestica, 4, (left) and Alexandra Evelyn, 4, (center). PLACE, shuttered since spring break, is on track to reopen for summer 2020 with added safety precautions.
Maisyn Strowbridge, 4, (right) sings while building a snowman Florida style during a special winter activity held at the Pasco Learning and Activity Center of Enrichment (PLACE) at Fox Hollow Elementary School in Port Richey. Also pictured are Myrah Almestica, 4, (left) and Alexandra Evelyn, 4, (center). PLACE, shuttered since spring break, is on track to reopen for summer 2020 with added safety precautions. [ MICHELE MILLER | Times ]
Published May 13, 2020
Updated May 13, 2020

With Florida slowly reopening its businesses, parents headed back to work need someplace safe to watch their children.

The Pasco County school district expects to offer that service, starting in mid June.

Even though its summer academic programs will remain online, the district intends to reopen its PLACE program at up to 20 schools for approximately 2,300 children in kindergarten through fifth grade. The specific details are still being worked out.

Related: Pasco schools to offer targeted summer classes online

More than 1,000 families have already expressed interest, assistant superintendent Betsy Kuhn said.

“We’ve been debating it for a while,” Kuhn said. “We have talked about when is the right time. It’s hard to know.”

In a usual summer, the PLACE program serves about 3,400 children in 36 schools. Mostly, the kids congregate in cafeterias and gymnasiums.

The model will look markedly different this summer, Kuhn said, from drop off to pickup.

Parents would likely not be allowed into the buildings any more, instead leaving their children in front of the building with a staff member, who will screen for temperature and other signs of illness. A survey of families showed nearly 90 percent support for such action.

Backing was less strong for the idea of having every adult and child wear a mask and gloves while attending. Kuhn said that idea is still under consideration.

Inside, the children would be spread out more widely across the school campus, with smaller teacher-student ratios. To help cover the cost, the administration has asked the School Board to increase the weekly charge per student by $9, to $75.

That item comes to the board on Tuesday.

Vice chairman Allen Altman, who has studiously practiced social distancing since the pandemic ensued, said he was willing to consider the price hike and the program reopening if the service can be done in a way that keeps everyone protected.

“If we can provide assistance to our families and do it safely and help them, that’s what we do,” Altman said.

Kuhn noted that the district is working out the specifics of how to resume its child care service without direct guidelines from the state. Many other programs are opening or have never closed, she noted, and they can offer examples for officials to review.

That includes everything from cleaning protocols to limitations on outside visitors.

She added that, even though the district’s summer school programs aren’t being offered on campuses, PLACE is looking at how to support the children who need both the child care and the extra academic assistance.