School closures leave working Vermont families in a bind

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The question many families are now grappling with is what do we do about child care when schools shut their doors? Our Cat Viglienzoni spoke with one mom who's trying to figure out a plan.

She's worried about the same things any parent is: one, that her child's learning and routine will be disrupted; and two, who is going to watch over him while she has to work?

"We know that a lot of parents are going to be impacted by this," Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, said on Monday.

The governor acknowledged the state's decision to close schools would put working families in a bind. Families like Bethany Caruso's.

"I work in child care. It's very hands-on. And I need to be here," Caruso said.

She works at Nadeau's Playschool in Williston. Her job can't be done remotely and she has a 16-year-old son with special needs who can't be left alone.

"What are we going to do at this point? Who's going to watch him? Because we don't want to bring him to work with us because then there's a risk of exposure, especially because he does have a compromised immune system," Caruso said.

While she and her staff take steps to combat the virus by doubling down on sanitizing and cleaning procedures, they are expecting additional guidance from the state soon.

Meanwhile, the growing uncertainty over the virus led many families to pull their kids from classes already. In Burlington, where a 5% absentee rate is normal, 65% of kids were gone on Monday.

"It wasn't a big surprise," Superintendent Yaw Obeng said.

Obeng says they're also partnering with the city and community to create child care for essential staff and first responders.

"We are going to prioritize those high-need essential service workers. So, it's not going to be many, but hopefully, we'll provide a service for those who are providing for us medically or out in the community with safety," Obeng said.

Caruso lives in Colchester and says her district has been reaching out. And while the state says it's working on a plan for special needs kids, she's already reaching out to see who might be able to watch her son.

"We still don't have all the details worked out yet," she said.

Late Monday afternoon, Burlington announced that due to staffing shortages, they would not be able to hold any pre-K or after-school programming on Tuesday.