New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Daily News NYC Council member suggests using empty storefronts, shuttered private schools for remote learning childcare by Michael Elsen-Rooney


NYC Council member suggests using empty storefronts, shuttered private schools for remote learning childcare

As city parents scramble for alternate childcare arrangements with the prospect of part-time school hours this fall, one city lawmaker says they could start by tapping hundreds of empty storefronts and shuttered Catholic schools.

City Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) wants to use spaces like vacant community centers, libraries and closed private schools as childcare centers where students can work on remote learning with adult supervision on days they’re not allowed in their schools.

“Families are looking for certainty,” Kallos said, “and the possibility of having to stay home several days each week to care for young kids “throws out any notion of stability in anyone’s life.”

“We may be able to address this crisis with an expanded version of the ‘emergency childcare centers’ that the City opened in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, by opening remote learning centers,” Kallos added in a letter to Mayor de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

City officials announced this week the majority of the 1.1 million public school students would spend between one and three days a week in their classrooms this year to keep numbers down and maintain social distance. The decision means headaches for working parents forced to find child care.

More than 300,000 families - close 50% of those with kids in Pre-K or elementary school said they’d need help with child care on days their kids are home from school, an Education Department survey revealed.

Kallos says the city could start the gargantuan task of erecting a shadow childcare system by identifying vacant spaces — including businesses that shuttered both before and during the pandemic.

“We should be leaving no stone unturned,” he said.

Kallos cites a spate of closed Duane Reades and Chase Bank, along with recently-shuttered Catholic schools, as possible examples, noting the Citywide Administrative Services Department surveyed empty properties during the pandemic to scout for medical space and should have a database of suitable locations.

Of course, there’s still the question of who would staff such centers — a particularly vexing issue as the Education Department and other city agencies face hiring freezes and possible layoffs. Kallos proposes staffing the sites with a combination of teachers and non-profit employees.

City Council Member Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) suggested a mix of human-services staff, college students, and parents could supervise the remote learners.

A City Hall spokeswoman said multiple city agencies and private institutions are working on alternate childcare plans.

“We know working families are trying to put the pieces together and make this work, and we are laser focused on providing solutions,” said City Hall spokeswoman Jane Meyer. “We will announce options in the coming weeks so parents and employers can plan for September.”

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