Virtual after-school programs could be coming to locations across Grand Island.
To help meet needs raised by the pandemic, Hall County Community Collaborative has received a grant for $59,063 to develop virtual learning centers.
The funds, from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development community development block grant, were approved by the Grand Island City Council in February.
Just as schools are able to provide remote learning, child care providers would be able to offer an online alternative for working families. The funds would allow providers to offer virtual-led projects to keep elementary-age children engaged when online school lets out.
“The funding will provide child care opportunities for the low-income families that would be safe for the children and have the equipment and staff necessary to improve their success in a virtual learning environment,” H3C Executive Director Julie Nash said.
H3C would use CDBG funds to provide scholarships for child care services to low-income families with working parents.
“We know that that’s so critical to the success of the business, the community and the family’s ability to pay the bills,” Nash said.
The CDBG funds would allow for virtual programming via child care centers by providing for technology, such as additional computers or greater bandwidth, as well as needed tech support.
But as reports of new cases of COVID-19 continue to decrease amid community health precautions and vaccine rollouts, virtual learning centers may not be necessary.
In that case, the funds would be instead be used for supporting child care staff members and programs.
“When we first submitted the proposal, we were in a different place,” Nash said. “The beauty is, and I hope we don’t go back to where we were a year ago, we have the thoughts and plans in place if something like that were to happen again, for the betterment of kids and families.”
To bolster child care staff, H3C is working to create a “sub list.”
It is partnering with Central Community College to develop a workforce to serve at various area child care centers.
“The public schools have a ‘sub list’ that, if a teacher is out, they call that list and they would be able to come in and substitute. It would be the same with a child care center,” Nash said. “We would develop that sub list so child care centers would have trained staff.”
The scholarships program is being implemented this week, she said.
A substitute child care staff pool is expected to be in place by December.
“I would love to have something up and running by summer, but it takes a while,” Nash said. “The criminal history checks take a while to get processed.”
H3C helps organize and coordinate resources and needs between area agencies that focus on youths and families, and health and education.
Projects can address such areas as juvenile justice and behavioral intervention, or community homelessness.
More than 30 agencies participate in the collaborative.
“We do strategic planning, task forces. We share data and expertise to develop those plans and actions,” Nash said. “The ultimate goal is that, when we bring all the people together, we’re sharing resources so we’re maximizing to make sure dollars are being used as best as they can.”
She called it an honor to lead H3C and “to watch how the community comes together to solve those issues.”
“It might be your neighbor you’re working with, or a family member, that we’re trying to look at those support systems,” Nash said, “and make sure it’s as effective and easy for people to access as possible.”