With local schools set to reopen in about two weeks, Community Education is moving ahead with its after-school programs, albeit at a greatly reduced capacity, at least early in the school year.

Erin Lightfoot, Community Education’s associate director of school age programs, acknowledges the challenges posed by state public health guidelines, which require the nonprofit to limit groups of students to no more than 10 and tie staff members to that specific group throughout the day.

That said, Lightfoot’s hopeful about Community Education’s plans for relaunching its after-school programs. It reviewed sanitation and social distancing procedures with staff and cleaning and temperature checks will be conducted throughout the day, she said.

“We’re here to serve the working parents,” Lightfoot said. “We’re trying our best.”

Community Education partners with local public schools to host its after-school programs. Currently, Lightfoot said, Community Education is planning to open its after-school programs Aug. 24, and it’s partnering with Warren County Public Schools to make that happen. School-based programs will be available throughout the county school district.

The only exception is students who attend Oakland Elementary School, who will be bused to Bristow Elementary instead.

“Other than that, we are in every county elementary school,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said school-based programs for the Bowling Green Independent School District likely won’t be available right away. The district is slated to start back in-person Aug. 10 with its schools at half capacity and students on alternating schedules for the first 10 days.

“We will get in there eventually,” Lightfoot said.

The number of program slots the nonprofit can offer at each site will vary, Lightfoot said. Some sites may only be capable of accommodating 10 students while complying with state guidelines, while others could comfortably take up to 30.

Even with the restrictions in place, demand for child care isn’t abating.

“We opened enrollment this past Monday, and there are some schools that filled up Monday,” Lightfoot told the Daily News on Friday. Spots remain open, and parents interested in enrolling their students should contact Community Education’s office for guidance at 270-842-4281.

Community Education is planning to relaunch its after-school programs as it wraps up its summer child care program July 31. Hosted at BGISD’s Bowling Green Learning Center, the site was able to accommodate up to 50 children between kindergarten and the fourth grade.

Consistent with state guidance, student groups were not permitted to mingle with each other and child care staff were expected to wear masks. Students were not required to wear face coverings, but were required to undergo temperature checks before entering the facility.

Amid the pandemic, child well-being advocates have called on Congress to offer child care providers additional relief. Kentucky’s Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, along with other national and state partners, has requested $50 billion in federal stimulus funding for child care. Kentucky’s share of that amount would be about $958 million, according to a news release from the Prichard Committee.

Additional federal funding is required to reassure parents who are reluctant to send their children back to care providers because of safety concerns, the Prichard Committee said.

It pointed to the results of a parent survey that elicited 1,570 responses. As many as 45 percent of responding parents were either unsure, will not or are delaying sending their children back to the same child care setting they attended before the pandemic.

“Kentucky’s childcare ecosystem was already in a fragile state of existence prior to the pandemic. Now, following the permanent closures of some child care providers, on top of the loss of nearly half from 2013 to 2019, Kentucky parents are now facing even tougher choices when it comes to their children’s care,” said Prichard Committee President and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey in the release. “It is imperative for both our families and our economy that Congress provide assistance to Kentucky’s child care system as part of the federal stimulus efforts.”

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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