YMCA unable to offer distance learning program because of state law
BATON ROUGE – The YMCA distance learning program has been put on a halt. The nonprofit organization was ready to offer child care services to students who have to stay at home and go to school virtually due to the pandemic. But state law prohibits them to do so.
YMCA leaders posted this to their website:
“UPDATE July 31: We apologize for the delay in opening our registration for this program. After planning, preparation and promotion of our program, we were informed that due to state guidelines, we and other like agencies, are unable to offer this program while schools are open. We have been in discussion with the Board of Education in EBR, the State BOE and BESE that this law needs to be amended due to children being sent home by the school. Although schools are technically open, children are not there. We have also been in communication with BESE and the Governor’s Office. We are hopeful that this decision will be overturned as it impacts several organizations throughout the state.”
A spokesperson with the Louisiana Department of Education told WBRZ the following on Monday:
"That is a state law (RS 17:407), which has also been incorporated into a BESE policy (Bulletin 137). The law states that during the school year, you must be a licensed child care provider. Camps do not have to be a licensed child care provider to operate when school is not in session. Being a licensed child care provider comes with health and safety regulations, such as, background checks, physical space requirements, and being in compliance with health and fire codes."
Earlier this week, Capital Area YMCA CEO Christian Engle said they wanted to offer the program to help parents adjust to a hybrid schedule that many schools will be implementing.
“We think it's important that kids are here or somewhere. We don't think it's best for a child to be home alone. We think they can be in an environment where people can watch them, care for them and provide them some outlets, and some fun activities with their friends,” Engle said.
Anywhere from 250 to 300 families were expecting to take advantage of the program starting Aug. 10 at the Capital Area YMCA location on S Foster Drive.
“We have very upset families because they have relied on us for years to provide care to their children. And they’re relying on us now and we’re not able to give that to them,” Engle said.
He added that this does not just affect their operations, but other non-profit organizations, as well.
“This is a Boys and Girls Club issue. This is a BREC issue, a recreational issue. And even on down the line, this is an employment issue. What are employers supposed to do when their employees are telling them ‘I can’t come to work today because I have to sit with my child at the kitchen table while they do their school work,’” Engle said.
The Y is now in talks with the state on becoming a licensed childcare provider in order to operate the program under the current law. Engle says getting the license is not the issue, it’s the timing.
“We have basically five days to go through the process and we’re not under the impression that the government can pull it off in 5 days,” Engle said.
The Governor’s Office and the Dept. of Education are reviewing the issue but did not provide any more information.
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