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First responders, essential workers offered free child care

A New York State University Police officer looks

A New York State University Police officer looks on as people arrive for drive-thru coronavirus testing at Stony Brook University on Friday. Appointments are required at the testing site. Credit: Barry Sloan

A free program to provide child care for the children of first responders, medical service providers, transit workers and where space permits, other essential workers is up and running at 19 locations across Long Island. 

George Duffy, executive director/CEO of SCOPE Education Services, the organization running the program, said about 200 children in grades pre-K to sixth are enrolled in the program and he is working to establish more host sites.

“Any Nassau County residents can use any of the sites in Nassau, and Suffolk residents can use any site in Suffolk,” Duffy said.

Smithtown-based SCOPE Education Services is a private, not-for-profit, permanently chartered by the New York State Board of Regents to provide services to school districts its residents in the state.

The emergency child care program is being run pursuant to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive order earlier this month, that school districts are required to establish and submit plans on how they will provide child care to the children of essential health care and first responders who are critical to the community response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Duffy said he has 12 school districts in Suffolk County that are acting as host sites and seven such districts in Nassau County. Host sites are set up at selected buildings in those districts were the programs take place. Most of the host sites are allowing children from other districts into their sites.

He said he can accommodate up to 1,000 students in Suffolk and 800 in Nassau.

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Enrollment is on a first-come first-served basis, with priority given to the families of the school district in which the program is held. The program is only open to students in pre-K to sixth-grade and runs Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

All SCOPE staff have completed a comprehensive background check and have received clearance from the state Office of Children and Family Services and all are trained child care professionals, Duffy said.

Children will be given a health check each morning and will be kept in groups of no more than 10 and will be practicing social distancing. Activities will include active play, crafts and distance learning when possible, Duffy said. Parents are responsible for transportation and are asked to send their children to the program with lunch when possible.

District custodial staff are required to open, close and sanitize the buildings daily.

Huntington Union Free School District Superintendent James Polansky said his district already has two sites approved for SCOPE child care, therefore the transition to an emergency program was relatively seamless. The program is running at one of those two sites and is running smoothly, he said.

“In the current situation, we felt strongly that it was important to for us to do our part in helping health care workers and first responders get to work,” Polansky said in an email.

Duffy said he hopes that this service will be of assistance to the people who are on the front lines.

“I can’t emphasize enough how much this has been a cooperative effort of the school districts and the county governments and my workers here at SCOPE who are as much on the front lines as anyone else working with these children every day and I’m very proud of them.”

For more information or to register go to www.scopeonline.us.

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