The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce said it developed a 'Child Care Task Force' to help parents who can't be at home to supervise their kids during virtual classes.
A representative from the chamber said there was already a massive shortage in daycare openings in North Alabama before Covid-19. Among Alabama's 5th congressional district, there are 22,000 more kids than spots available in child care facilities.
That area includes most of North Alabama and all of Madison County. The chamber said it has not fully assessed how delaying the return to school will impact that but said the task force is working on solutions.
Non-profits in our area are also working on solutions as well. This includes the Heart Of The Valley YMCA.
President Jerry Courtney said he was been on the phone all day talking to community leaders and parents about what his organization can do to help accommodate parents, especially essential workers who can't stay at home with their kids.
"The reality is, there's not enough childcare," Courtney said. "There's not enough school-aged care, to take care of the kids that are needed."
During the summer, the YMCA provides all-day school-aged programs. During the school year, that program typically goes away. Now, Courtney is finding a way to accommodate parents who can't work remotely or help their kids with virtual learning.
"Traditional ways just won't work, so we gotta figure out public-private partnership," Courtney said. "In our case in the Y, all of our programs in the traditionally run in our buildings are already full for the rest of the fall."
He said finding space is key. Right now, day cares can only operate at a 30% capacity due to the state's health guidelines.
"We gonna have to have people starting to reach out to school systems, places like us, saying I've got an office space we can convert," Courtney said.
Starting tomorrow, those discussions will begin with Madison County Schools. The district is holding a virtual meeting with its community partners to discuss options for child care.
"We're going to solve this problem of child care by us all working together, and we gotta get beyond talk, we gotta get people in a room and say, let's start looking at space at our area where we know there's a need," Courtney said.
The Madison County Chamber of Commerce did announce a grant today available for day cares. Courtney said the YMCA already applied. He said this grant acts as an incentive to get day cares who have remained closed due to financial struggles, to reopen.