Coronavirus: SF starts emergency childcare centers, district makes free meals available to students amid school closures

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Coronavirus: SF starts emergency childcare centers, still offers free meals for students
Mayor London Breed announced that the Recreation and Park Department and the Library will begin to operate facilities as emergency care facilities for children of parents on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak and low-income families.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- "You need to wash your hands and then line up!"

Teachers at El Dorado Elementary School in Visitacion Valley made one last call for handwashing Friday afternoon, before school closes for three weeks.

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"It's a lot of stress, it's a lot of weight on the family situation, if you got parents that are working," said RJ, whose daughter goes to El Dorado.

Like many San Francisco families, RJ doesn't know how he's going to juggle childcare with a full-time job.

"My job keeps going, it's non-stop. So if I gotta go and I have nowhere to take my kids to, the kids can't come with me to work. It's gonna cause me to lose pay, lose wages in order to stay home to provide for my kids"

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Jerome Strain picked up packets of books and papers Friday, so his three SFUSD kids could study from home. He works with the elderly and is also trying to figure out how to do his job and care for his children.

"Maybe if there were more cases showing up in the schools where they actually tested postive for coronavirus then I feel like it was justified."

ABC7 visited Evan Mundahl's health science class at Burton High School. The last lesson before the school closure was how different countries around the world are handling the pandemic.

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"When you're thinking how is it spreading, you think of your patient zero. Why are people going to work when they are sick? What in society is forcing them to go to work sick? Is it they're low income, they gotta make money for their family, do they not have good sick leave? These are public health issues that affect us in a pandemic," Mundahl asked his students.

Mundahl says he's worried about how his students and their families will fare without school.

"It's a big equity issue with putting things online," Mundahl said. "Do our students have the ability to actually complete work?"

Mundahl says teachers are doing what they can to stay engaged with their students over the next few weeks.

"There have been volunteer forms handed out to teachers to help with supplying food to students who may be food insecure and I know were working with our community school program to get students Chrome Books so that if it comes to online learning they'll have the ability to complete work," Mundahl added.

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Beginning Monday, SFUSD is opening food pick-up sites at schools across the city.

Eight sites will open on Tuesday, 14 sites are to open on Wednesday and startring from thursday onwards, there will be 18 fully operational sites open from 9 to 10 a.m.

The district will provide FREE breakfast, lunch, and pantry items to all children 18 and younger. No proof of ID is required, but a child must be present. Families will not need to enter the school buildings to get food.

"This is an example of the kind of food that will be going out to the schools. This is celery, we have some peanut butter over here," said Paul Ash, the executive director of the San Francisco Marin Food Bank. Ash pointed out some of the pantry items that will be available to SFUSD families starting next week.

"We know that families are going to be coming in to get the school lunches. At the same time we're going to give them the opportunity to get groceries."

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Mayor London Breed also announced that beginning Monday, March 16 the Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Public Library will begin to operate libraries and indoor recreation facilities as emergency care facilities for children of parents on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak and low-income families.

Parents on the front line include San Francisco-based hospital staff, Department of Public Health employees, and activated Disaster Service Workers.

"During this time, health care workers and other essential staff need to be able to keep working and responding to this public health emergency," said Mayor Breed. "With this change to our libraries and recreation facilities, young people whose parents need to respond to COVID-19 will have a safe place to go. I want to thank the Library and the Recreation and Park Department for stepping up to provide this critical service for San Francisco families."

"The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is the largest provider of youth programming outside of the school district," said Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. "We will offer engaging activities akin to a summer camp in order to ease the impact of school closures on San Francisco families."

SF Recreation and Park's facilities will serve kindergarten through fifth grade, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The San Francisco Public Library will provide homework help and educational enrichment for youth grades six to 12, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Office of Early Care and Education is continuing to provide support and guidance for existing private childcare providers for children 0 to 5 years old.

You must be eligible and register ahead of time.

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"San Francisco Public Library has long served as a safe haven for youth and an essential provider of educational and recreational resources," said City Librarian Michael Lambert. "By focusing our organizational capacity on serving as Emergency Youth Care Centers, we are fulfilling our mission and supporting the City's overall resiliency at a time of critical need."

"Health care workers are on the front lines every day, keeping our community healthy and safe," said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. "Right now, the care they are delivering is more vital than ever, as we work together as a City to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Practically speaking, health care workers often can't work from home. With school closures and other impacts on our community, their childcare needs are changing fast. We are grateful to the libraries and recreation centers for stepping up to provide childcare for health care workers, so that they can continue to do what's needed most, while knowing that their families are in good hands."

The centers will operate from March 16 through March 31.

All 28 San Francisco library locations will be closed to the public starting at 6 p.m. today and remain closed until March 31. The Library's robust digital services will continue to give card holders 24/7 free access to eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, movies, classes and more.

For more information about the emergency day care centers amid the coronavirus outbreak, see the website here.