Schools, community organizations step up to help families during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 12:38 PM, Mar 19, 2020

From the outside, the chaos and screaming from the kids room at this YMCA in Burlington Kentucky, seems pretty normal.

But in the world of COVID-19, it’s anything but.

“The world has really changed and is changing by the minute,” said Jorge Gomes, director of Greater Cincinnati YMCA.

The Greater Cincinnati YMCA took the call to action and is closing down other operations to focus on childcare for parents who can’t work from home, especially those on the front lines fighting this pandemic.

“We have opened childcare centers specifically to help and support those individuals that are hospital staff and first responders," said Gomes. "Our intent is to give these kids a safe fun environment while they’re families are saving the world."

Childcare is going is a big deal while the country weathers the storm. Normally, during working hours, parents rely on the school system for that, among many other things.

No one knows that better than Kathy Burkhardt.

“Our schools don’t close," she said. "We’re open until 6 in the evening; sometimes beyond that. We provide summer feeding, summer care, after school care."

Burkhardt runs the Erlanger-Elsmere School District (EESD). She and her staff aren’t changing anything while school is out. The school will continue to feed children.

“Three of our schools are open right now for breakfast and lunch,” said Amanda Ponchot, nutrition director for EESD.

Additionally, the school district is checking on students struggling with their mental health issues.

“Our counselors are still checking in with our high-need kids, everyday,” said Amber Evans, youth services coordinator for the district.

And making sure kids have a place to stay.

“We typically serve about 300 students [experiencing] homelessness,” said Shelly Warner, the Families in Transitions Coordinator at EESD.

These are just many of the things that our education system is tasked with handling, coronavirus or not.

“We see our role as making sure students are successful, and if all you’re doing is focusing on what’s happening from 8 to 3, then you’re not really doing all you can do for children and families,” said Burkhardt.

All of the district's actions are helping in times like this, especially the meals for families who are preparing for the worst.

“We're trying to ration our food, so we’ve created like a little sign out snack sheet, so they're allowed two snacks a day,” said Nina Vogt, a mom with three kids at home from school.

But the spirit of the community is strong, and its members think by working together they can help keep families and kids safe and fed.

“There is some simplicity with just simply walking away for a couple of weeks and some extreme complexities when you think about trying to launch a whole new idea, but this is what we do," said Gomes

“Stay calm. You can do this and reach out to people in your district or in your community to help you, because together we can do so much more than we can alone,” said Burkhardt.