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Vt. education officials identify 12 of proposed 70 child care hubs

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 5:56 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 5:58 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont public school students go back to school in one week and the looming problem of child care is taking center stage.

The state of Vermont is setting up 12 locations in eight counties where some 4,600 kids will take their online classes while their parents are at work.

“We are putting together a whole new child care system together in a matter of weeks, and that’s something I don’t think we’ve ever done as a state,” said Vt. Agency of Human Service Secretary Mike Smith.

Another 20 locations are in the works and pending approval. There’s still a lot of details to be worked out, including what the physical layout of these hubs will look like and who will staff them. Smith says they don’t want to poach teachers and staff from other programs because those are in demand as well.

With 40,000 people still unemployed, Governor Scott says that this could be an opportunity to provide more jobs.

“If you have any interest in early learning or child care, reach out to us, because we could use the help right now,” Scott said.

Though the centers will stagger groups of students, there is still a possibility of COVID spreading through the hubs and in schools.

The state is working on creating a new data system to track COVID cases in schools. They say privacy laws restrict the state from releasing individual student cases, so student and teacher cases will be lumped together. But the state won’t provide any data for schools with fewer than 25 students.

“This means we probably will not be reporting data for about 15 of our schools. We believe a consistent approach for using this data at the state level will help schools in communication with their families and their communities and can replace the need for districts to do this on their own,” said Vt. Education Secretary Dan French.

These hubs, however, will come with a cost on top of what people pay in their property taxes every year that fund schools, though the exact amount is unclear. The state will offer financial assistance to some families.

While Scott and state officials hammer out more details of the state’s back to school plan, his Democratic challenger, Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, is highlighting teachers’ about the extra cost of child care for families and the lack of a statewide school reopening plan.

“Parents are supposed to keep working and find extra child care and pay for that child care, because there’s no plan. Governor Scott failed to coordinate a statewide plan to return to school,” said Mark Brown, a teacher at U-32 High School.

Stet officials admit there’s still a lot of questions about what the programming at these child care hubs will look like and how they will be physically arranged.

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Vt. child care hub initiative scrambling to identify providers

Child care hub planning moving forward quickly

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