Chelsea Boggs, a kindergarten teacher at Grant’s Lick Elementary School in Campbell County, Kentucky, normally asks her mother to watch her children when she teaches.
But her fears that her three school-aged children might infect her mother with the coronavirus prompted Boggs to rule out her mother as an option for daycare this year — just when she needed her most.
Boggs, like dozens of other northern Kentucky teachers, is preparing to return to the classroom under a new hybrid model of in-person and remote learning.
“My mum has a lung disease so I can’t ask her to watch the kids while I’m at work because it’s too dangerous. I really didn’t know what I was going to do for daycare. I tried to avoid the whole topic,” she told the Enquirer last week.
That was before she learned that the Plum Creek Christian Church, located near Butler, Kentucky, will provide free daycare for teachers and staff at Grant’s Lick and Reiley Elementary School.
“It’s such a generous offer,” said Boggs, who is not a member of the church. “If it hadn’t been for the church, I probably would have taken FMLA (leave authorized under the Family and Medical Leave Act). I literally wouldn’t be here, and that would be such a bad services for children.
Daycare begins August 24. That’s when most Grant’s Lick and Reiley students are expected to start taking in-person classes two days a week and remote learning three days a week to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
However, the hybrid learning model excludes kindergarten, and Boggs will have to maintain regular class times throughout the week.
Hoping other churches follow
Plum Creek Executive Minister Jared Perkins, who came up with the idea for free child care at the church, said many of his parishioners are teachers who face the same dilemma as Boggs.
“If we didn’t find a way to take care of the children of teachers and school staff, we wouldn’t have a school at all,” Perkins said. “We do this to serve our community.”
Perkins has recruited nearly a dozen volunteers, including four retired teachers, to care for about 60 children in the church’s licensed daycare from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
He said he hopes his church will be an example for other churches in the region to follow.
“We hope that if we spread the word, other churches might as well,” Perkins said. “Many other churches have the space and the volunteer labor to make this work, and we all need to work together to get through this pandemic.”
Connie Pohlgeers, spokesperson for the Campbell County School District, said she was not aware of any other churches in the area offering free daycare to teachers and school staff.
But “it’s something we hoped other churches would pick up on,” Pohlgeers said. “We could use the aid. We have eight schools.”
“It was definitely a blessing”
On days when kids aren’t in class, Plum Creek will make sure children are nurtured and actively engaged in their online learning, said Valerie Trapp, who has taught elementary school in the area for more than 30 years and will lead the church’s day care program.
Trapp, who started an art academy for children and adults in her home a few months ago, said she jumped at the chance to help with the daycare program after hearing from so many discouraged teachers.
“One of my art students is a teacher at Reiley and sends her kids to Grant’s Lick,” Trapp said. “She told me she didn’t know what she was going to do with her kids if they had to be home three or four days a week. She was desperate. I felt like it was something I had to do to help.
Trapp said she got to know many children whom she will care for in church as a substitute teacher at Grant’s Lick. She also knows many parents of children because she was their teacher when they were children.
“I guess a teacher’s job is never done,” Trapp said with a smile.
Nick Little and his wife, Melissa — both Campbell County teachers who signed up for free daycare in Plum Creek — said they were grateful they didn’t have to rush to daycare every week.
The Plum Creek program will give them the peace of mind to focus on teaching their students, said Nick Little, who teaches at Campbell County High School.
“It was definitely a blessing when Plum Creek created this program for us,” he said.
The couple already have enough on their minds, including their own fears of returning to school and contracting the virus, the husband said.
“Everyone is affected,” he said. “You weigh the benefit of face-to-face teaching with the risk to your family and your students.”
Parents are already sending their children back to class amid fears over the raging pandemic.
School districts, health departments and state agencies across the country have reported increased cases among students, teachers and staff at many K-12 campuses.
One of the most egregious recent examples has occurred in Georgia, where at least 260 employees of the state’s largest school district have been exposed to the coronavirus.