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A difficult school year: How an on-campus child care center has adapted to the ongoing pandemic

A continuum of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and schools delivering curriculum virtually has left working parents unable to assist their elementary-aged children with school work.

Luckily, thanks to child care facilities like the YMCA Academy at the University of Kentucky, parents can go to work, and their child can complete their assignments. Parents can drop their kids off as early as 7 a.m. and pick them up as late as 6 p.m.

The YMCA Academy at UK is run by Kathryn Cook. Her goal is to create a fun and safe environment for kids during these unprecedented times. Along with Cook are other employees, a lot of them being education majors at UK.

There are approximately 50 kids enrolled, and they are split up into five separate groups. Every group is named after a famous professional basketball team: the Lakers, the Raptors, the Rockets, the Heat and the Warriors.

“Something as simple as naming groups after basketball teams can create excitement for the kids," said employee and current UK student Ellie Blevins. "It really is the little things that matter, especially right now.”

A school-issued Chromebook, a printed schedule and a face mask are the three essentials for a child receiving academic guidance and care at the Y Academy at UK.

Everyone must get their temperature taken every day before they can enter the building, wear a face covering at all times (except when eating or drinking), wash hands often and maintain social distancing.

A typical school day for a child consists of Zoom meetings with their class, independent work and movement breaks to get the blood flowing. The children also get periods of time dedicated to snacks and lunch.

Yummy snacks and meals are provided for any child in need. Children who don’t necessarily need food provided can eat what’s given out as well.

“We get truckloads of food delivered weekly to make sure no kid ever goes hungry," Cook said. "Times are tough for everyone right now, so we want to relieve as much stress as possible for families who are struggling.”

Along with food insecurity, the Y Academy at UK assists families with financials thanks to donors, members, grants and fundraisers. Cook went into detail on the weekly fees and the scholarships given to families in need.

“The YMCA’s financial assistance program helps make YMCA membership and programs affordable for anyone no matter their income," she said. "Every child deserves to have a positive learning experience, and money should never get in the way of that.”

It’s hard to gauge what the future holds in regards to in-person instruction, so as for now, places like the YMCA Academy at the University of Kentucky are a lot of families’ saving grace.

The best thing people can do while they wait for this global pandemic to calm down is to wear a mask, keep themselves and one another safe and healthy and be patient.


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