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The YMCA is currently in the process of pivoting some of its facilities to serve as day camps where parents can drop off their children before they head into work. Officials recently launched a partnership with El Camino Hospital, which is located next door to the El Camino YMCA. Dozens of families are already making use of the new program.
"We do our best to kind of be that temporary escape so that they can actually be children and enjoy life and some sense of normalcy," said Roy Que-Heath, a site director for the YMCA.
Students have been split up into multiple classrooms and will stay within the same group for the foreseeable future to limit potential exposure to COVID-19. Social distancing is also required.
"It's like really hard to have playdates with friends and see them," said Palo Alto fourth-grader Mindy Plonka. "I can't even travel to my family for Passover."
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Staff members are now leading a mix of youth development activities and independent study sessions throughout the day.
"We're making sure that the health workers in our community can be available to serve those critically ill," said YMCA President and Chief Executive officer Sandy Walker. "We can be a partner in making sure that this community has all the resources necessary to address this crisis."
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Despite the struggle of adapting to their new reality, students are putting it into perspective and maintaining a positive attitude.
"It's not the end of the world," said San Mateo fifth-grader Mariana Palscencia. "Doctors, nurses and scientists are working really hard."
YMCA staff members are also providing free meals to more than 2,900 children across 22 sites in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. The organization hopes to expand the day camps to new locations in the coming weeks.
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