MONMOUTH COUNTY, NJ: Gather your backpacks!

Back to school is becoming a reality for 436 school districts and growing in New Jersey. This, after Governor Murphy announced on Monday that things are getting better and better. The rate of transmission for COVID-19 has sunk to a recent low of .85. This means that things are getting better and kids are going back to school.

However, due to social distancing and related space considerations, the schools will be mainly utilizing an in-school and remote hybrid. This will pose major challenges for families in New Jersey and, particularly, critical child care services.  

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So, how do you manage work and kids going to school part-time or learning remotely this fall? 

As families struggle with making difficult decisions for remote work or a return to the workplace, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is introducing new child care options and convenient academic programming at several YMCA centers this fall.

“We will continue to support families and schools with the evolving needs in educating children during this unprecedented health crisis,” said YMCA President and CEO Laurie Goganzer. “The Y is one of the country’s largest and most trusted providers of child care services, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, we know our families need more, and we will do more to help them right now.”

The YMCA is launching the “Y Academy” in September to provide convenient, flexible, and affordable options for children in grades K-6, whose schedules are split between in-person and virtual learning.

“Our Y Academy will be a safe place for children to spend the day when they are not in school,” said Stacey Lastella, the Y’s vice president of Child Achievement. “Our learning and activity centers will give school-age children the opportunity to log in to their virtual classrooms, receive academic support, and take part in non-contact games and activities throughout the day.”

Parents will have flexible options with children attending two or three days a week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Y Academy will be available at the Freehold Family YMCA, Freehold Borough YMCA Community Center, and Matawan Child Achievement Center.

The Y plans to offer the Y Academy at the Old Bridge Family YMCA and Red Bank Family YMCA, pending licensing, and community sites are also under consideration depending on interest.

Also new this fall is a full-day kindergarten program for families who prefer in-person classroom instruction. Young learners will engage in an academic curriculum, physical fitness, social and emotional learning activities, and more, Lastella said.

The kindergarten program will be available in September at the Freehold Family YMCA’s Enrichment Center and Matawan Child Achievement Center. It will run Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with extended care available at 7 a.m. and until 6 p.m.

Working parents can have peace of mind that their children will be placed in small groups for both programs and all safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments will be strictly followed. Both staff and children will be required to wear masks (with scheduled mask breaks for kids). Health screenings will be mandatory at parent drop off and both parent and child will be temperature checked.

“Throughout the pandemic, we knew our community needed us, and the YMCA has continued to respond,” Goganzer said. “We have offered child care, COVID-19 testing, telehealth mental health counseling, outdoor fitness classes, summer camps and other essential services, including food distribution, while our indoor fitness facilities have been closed.”

The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County and Y’s across the state and country have found ways to repurpose their facilities during the ongoing worldwide health crisis. With the changing education landscape, the Y decided to find ways to help families deal with the new challenges that arise from part-time or all-virtual classroom time for children.

The Y will also resume before and after school care in the following Monmouth County school districts: Atlantic Highlands, Fair Haven, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Highlands, Little Silver, Manalapan/Englishtown, Matawan, Middletown Township, Millstone, Monmouth Beach, Shrewsbury, Spring Lake Heights and West Long Branch.

Additionally, the Y provides child care for infants to preschoolers at the Freehold Family YMCA and an academic pre-school program at the Matawan Child Achievement Center.

Lastella noted that in all child care programs, the Y infuses social and emotional learning activities to help children develop resilience through the pandemic recovery.

“We understand the cognitive, physical and social-emotional development of children,” Lastella said, “and we’re here to help kids feel connected and supported in a safe and caring environment.”

To learn more about YMCA child care programs and registration, visit www.ymcanj.org.