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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Child Care Options Emerge For B-N Families During Virtual School

YWCA signage
Ashley Binkowski
The YWCA Young Wonders program will offer school-age care for families during the school year as classes begin online.

The Bloomington-Normal YMCA and YWCA of McLean County are two of the organizations that have developed plans to offer child care for families when schools resume virtual learning later this month.
About 200 Bloomington-Normal schoolchildren are signed up for childcare and e-learning through the YMCA.

Sarah Tunall wearing a face mask
Credit Sarah Tunall
YMCA Youth Development Director Sarah Tunall said the YMCA is looking for additional sites to expand its Y Academy to serve more families during virtual schooling.

Youth Development Director Sarah Tunall is leading the Y Academy, offering academic support and social interaction for kids who will start the school year earning remotely.

“It’s an opportunity for kids to excel academically and an opportunity for them to feel like they are at school and have that stability that school brings in their life, create new friendships, develop opportunities for growth they might not otherwise have,” Tunall said.

The Y academy has secured three sites: Northpoint and Cedar Ridge elementary schools for kids in grades kindergarten-5, and Kinsgley Junior High for grades 6-8.

The YMCA is looking for additional locations as more families join.

Tunall said COVID is scary, but getting kids to wear masks won't be a problem.

“I honestly think adults have a harder time (wearing masks),” Tunall said. “We’ve found that the kids don’t actually mind wearing masks, they think it’s kind of fun. We are airplane arms for social distancing and we let them be airplanes they just can’t touch.”

She said students will be placed in groups of fewer than 10.

Tunell said in addition to time each student spends on their school assignments, they also will have time for personal enrichment that will include sports, art and music for the junior high students and theater and Spanish for elementary students.

Tunall said she had a staff of about 35, many of whom worked the YMCA’s Summer Camp; they will be serving as group leaders, mentors and tutors for the students.

She said the academy is accepting applications for more camp leaders, including college education majors and substitute or retired teachers who could fill positions as needs arise.

The academy costs up to $200 per week per student,but will cost less for YMCA-member families. The Y is offering financial assistance and accepts funding through the Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

“If those numbers are ridiculously high for you and you cannot afford that, we are working with families on a case-by-case basis to offer financial assistance,” Tunall said.

The academy starts on Aug. 24 and will continue as long as Bloomington-Normal school districts continue virtual learning.

Young Wonders

The YWCA of McLean County said it also will offer school-age child care starting Aug. 24 with part- and full-time options through its Young Wonders program.

“Children’s health, safety, and education is a priority for us,” said Melissa Breeden, senior director, YWCA Young Wonders. “We are happy to provide an affordable option and to work with parents/guardians to meet their needs/schedules to the best of our ability.”

The YWCA said Young Wonders teachers will lead small classrooms in daily activities that include social-emotional learning, e-learning support, free tutoring and other structured activities.

The program will be held at the YWCA, Oakland Elementary School and Colene Hoose Elementary School (for special needs children only) and other locations to be finalized, the YWCA said.

“We are pleased we will be able to help close the gap for children with special needs and those with an (individualized education program) IEP,” Breeden said. “Our experience with special needs children, children with IEP’s, and social/emotional learning is above reproach.”

Families will have access to free, weekly fresh produce as well as a once-a-month large food bank, according to the YWCA.

The child care fee is $34 per day. The YWCA said it will waive the $50 registration free through the end of August.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.