Emergency child care centers remain below capacity

City expanded hours to better serve frontline health care workers with long shifts

San Francisco’s emergency child care centers, which opened at city libraries when Mayor London Breed announced a shelter-in-place order, remain well under capacity even after the City expanded hours this week to accommodate health care workers.

Rec and Park is providing child care to frontline workers at 35 facilities during the coronavirus lockdown, but the sites are so far running at about 30 percent capacity.

About 156 children were being cared for in the emergency facilities on Tuesday, Rec and Park spokesperson Tamara Aparton said.There are a maximum of 547 spots, which was scaled back from over 1,000 to accommodate social distancing for children separated into groups of no more than 12 at a time.

Rec and Park on Monday expanded the hours of the child care centers from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. to better match the 12-hour shifts of many health care workers.

“Front line health care and essential employees like doctors and nurses need to have child care that they can rely on as they focus on responding to COVID-19,” Breed said in a statement. “Essential workers, including Disaster Service Workers and employees at our city’s clinics, need to be able to respond to this public health emergency without worrying about accessing and paying for child care.”

Child care is available to health care workers at San Francisco hospitals, Department of Public Health workers, workers part of the San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium, city workers taking on disaster service, and low-income families enrolled in the Rec and Park scholarship program. New applications for the scholarship program are being fast-tracked, Aparton said.

The centers are not available to workers reporting to other essential businesses like grocery stores, but that could change as officials look to increase enrollment. Rec and Park staff are running the centers, mostly at a 1:6 ratio or lower, according to Aparton.

“We are evaluating demand and capacity every week to see how we can better serve the city,” Aparton said in a text.

Activities differ depending on the site but encompass art, sports, and homework help — all done six feet apart, per social distancing requirements.

Facility staff are disinfecting frequently, and also asking parents and staff to check children’s temperatures before coming in. The Department of Children, Youth, and their Families is also operating the emergency care, and providing three meals to all participants.

“This is way for us to step up and be there for workers on the front line that are taking care of the City,” Aparton said. “We want them to have a safe place to leave their children.

imojadad@sfexaminer.com

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