Hamilton County Schools to open school-age child care programs this summer amid coronavirus pandemic

Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Feb 22, 2013 - Big Ridge Elementary School, 5210 Cassandra Smith Road in Hixson, Tenn., is one of the sites.

Hamilton County Schools will open school-age child care at 25 school locations this summer starting on June 1 despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The 25 sites mark an expansion from summer programs in the past, as the district makes an effort to keep the number of children at each location limited.

Enrollment will be limited to 25 children at each site, and parents will have to provide proof that they are essential employees to register their children for the summer program.

"The smaller number of children will help to provide the safest environment possible for children, staff and families. It will be necessary to have a letter from your employer with you at registration, stating that you are an essential employee to register a child for the summer program," according to a news release from the district.

As Gov. Bill Lee and local government officials have gradually eased restrictions on businesses and employers across the state in the past weeks, early child care facilities have begun to reopen with strict guidance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Most summer camps remain closed until at least June in the area, and school leaders are still grappling with summer school options.

"The district put together plans for School Age Child Care with the best information available to us at this time, and we hope this will help working parents as they make plans for the summer," said Justin Robertson, chief operations officer for the district, in a statement.

"As we have seen over the last two months, our situation can change rapidly and require adjustments to plans that are in place. We will work closely with the health department and county government to be alert to the latest health developments in our community. Please be patient and understand that any decisions made will have the health and safety of children as the most important consideration."

The district will be taking additional safety precautions this summer, including encouraging children and staff to wear face coverings inside and outside of the facilities as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and not taking children on field trips this summer.

Students will have their temperatures taken when arriving each day, and students with a temperature above 100 will not be permitted to attend. Children will also be required to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer numerous times throughout the day, according to the news release.

Drinking fountains also will not be available, and children are instead asked to bring their own water bottle each day. Electronic devices will be allowed for personal use, but cellphones will not be permitted.

Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis and will be accepted Wednesday, May 20, from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at each location.

The registration fee for participation in school age child care for the summer will be $10 for each child, and it is due at the time of registration. The cost for the program is $75 a week for each child, and $37.50 for each additional sibling. The fees have not changed this year from previous years, but parents are now required to pay for a full week in advance rather than day-to-day because of the district's efforts to limit enrollment.

The district's $3 million school-age child care program provides summer programs and before or after school extended day programs during the school year.

It is a self-funded program run off of parent fees, according to Chief Business Officer Brent Goldberg, and any excess fees collected through the program are required to be put in the district's general purpose fund - the district's savings account at the end of the fiscal year.

In 2019, the school-age child care program put about $189,000 into the general purpose fund after covering the program's costs.

2020 summer program sites include:

North River Learning Community

- Allen Elementary

- Big Ridge Elementary

- Daisy Elementary

- DuPont Elementary

- Hixson Elementary

- McConnell Elementary

- Middle Valley Elementary

- Soddy Elementary

Missionary Ridge Learning Community

- Apison Elementary

- Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts

- East Ridge Elementary

- Westview Elementary

Opportunity Zone Learning Community

- Barger Academy

Harrison Bay Learning Community

- Harrison Elementary

- Ooltewah Elementary

- Bess T. Shepherd Elementary

- Wallace A. Smith

Rock Point Learning Community

- Battle Academy

- Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences

- Lookout Valley Elementary

- Nolan Elementary

- Normal Park Lower

- Normal Park Upper

- Red Bank Elementary

- Rivermont Elementary

Contact Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.