Marietta City Schools educators don’t have to worry about their job duties clashing with their roles as parents while they teach.
The school system is offering childcare for its staff members who are teaching students remotely. Children from 4 to 12 years old are eligible for the program managed by Marietta City Schools staff members who’ve had their hours cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as before- and after-school program workers.
Marietta schools began the school year Aug. 4 with virtual learning due to the pandemic, and teachers are allowed to either teach from home or in their classrooms. About 92 kids are in the childcare program, said Kimberly Custance, director of Marietta Community School, which oversees the initiative. Parents pay $60 per week, but Superintendent Dr. Grant Rivera said they are working to secure community sponsors to help offset those costs.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of care for a four-year-old child in Georgia is more than $600 a month.
Custance said pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students go to Emily Lembeck Early Learning Center and the remaining students are at the schools where their parents work. No more than five children are in a classroom at a time to allow the school system to practice social distancing.
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“Many staff members want to be in their classrooms when they are doing virtual learning, so we are offering, when possible, for these staff childcare locations to be at the school,” Rivera said.
Custance said daycare services are built around the schedules of parents, which varies by grade level. Rivera said kids experience something like normal school days, with time dedicated to study, breaks and lunch.
Marietta’s initiative is similar to its still-active program that offers free childcare to staff members during planning and staff workdays.
Marietta City Schools has just under 8,900 students and about 1,200 staff members, including around 800 teachers. Rivera said the system hopes to continue the program after in-person learning resumes.
“We want to eliminate distractions for our teachers and staff who need to be focused on serving someone else’s child,” he said.
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Westside Elementary School kindergarten teacher Autumn Martin, whose son is in the program, said it’s difficult for educators to balance remote teaching with helping their own children who may also be learning from home.
“There’s this constant feeling like you’re not doing enough on either end,” she said.
Marietta educators who are teaching remotely feel the strain of trying to take care of their own children and being available for their students and parents who may be struggling with the new normal, Martin said.
“The child care is alleviating some of that strain and it’s making it easier all around to be the best teacher I want to be for my students,” Martin said. “The year will look different, but know we are working so hard to make these babies feel loved and excited about online learning. We are working hard to make it special and trying to make it a great year.”
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution