Campus community worried about custody of children under 12
While the majority of students, faculty and staff at Wellesley have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 this semester, parents and child care providers in the campus community are focusing on a large unvaccinated population. in their life: children under 12.
Coronavirus vaccine has yet to be cleared for young children, and parenting burdens are rising due to worsening childcare shortage that existed long before the pandemic. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has mandated in-person learning for all public school districts in the Commonwealth, and as the Wellesley College campus moves on to an all-in-person year of classes, students, faculty, and Staff in a role of childcare provider in the community have worked to juggle their professional obligations while caring about childcare and safety in the event of a pandemic.
At the end of the last academic year, the management of the College published a memorandum titled “September 2021 to December 2021 Flexwork Framework”, requiring administrative staff not to work more than two days a week remotely. In the fall of 2020, Wendy *, a member of the administrative staff, began making childcare arrangements for the next birth of her daughter. However, once Wendy gave birth in the spring, her babysitting contract fell through and she began to wonder who would look after her child after her maternity leave.
Wendy and her husband both work, and without outside help from family or an available daycare willing to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines Wendy felt comfortable working from home only two days per week was not possible. Wendy and her boss now have a temporary arrangement to have her stay home five days a week to work remotely until she can find long-term childcare for her daughter.
Wendy is concerned that she or her boss will suffer repercussions from the College’s human resources department. “I feel like they really put emphasis on this part of the policy. They made it clear that they didn’t want things to be more flexible, ”she said.
“I don’t want anybody to come down [my boss]. She knows I have no choice right now and I’m extremely nervous that it will come back to bite her or myself because she’s doing me a huge favor right now.
Due to childcare staff shortages across the country, Wendy has struggled to find a long-term arrangement for her daughter in child care or home child care.
“Daycare centers are understaffed. Babysitters and nannies are impossible to get, ”said Wendy. “I called all the daycares in the whole city. I think I’ve been laughed at more than once for asking if there were any upcoming slots.
Wendy wants the administration of the College to offer “understanding, more flexibility and [realize] that sometimes there is literally no other option but to stay home with your kids and work at the same time.
Other parents on campus have successfully implemented child care at two locations on site: the Child Study Center (CSC) and the Wellesley Community Children’s Center (WCCC). The CSC, affiliated with the College’s Psychology Department, serves as a preschool laboratory for researchers interested in early childhood development. A few meters away is the WCCC, an independent entity that offers childcare services up to pre-kindergarten.
Both daycares are to operate in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines set by the College’s Office of Health and Safety as well as the Massachusetts Department of Early Childhood Education and Care. Since reopening, the CSC has not recorded any positive coronavirus cases in children without spreading according to CSC faculty director Maureen Morgan. According to WCCC Early Years Program Director Darlene Howland, the program has had “a handful of [COVID-19] cases ”in his community of families and teachers, but no transmission to school.
In a typical year, Professor Jennie Pyers in the Department of Psychology takes students from the 100 and 200 level courses to visit the Child Study Center for live observation; she also sends her child to school at the WCCC. Last school year, the center was closed to visitors, preventing students from participating in the same observations. According to Pyers, CSC provided video recordings of children playing to document the child’s developmental habits for students to study.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, Pyers’ research into the use of language and gestures in children previously involved in-person studies at CSC. Since the switch to remote work, his research team conducted their study through online video calls with children, which are now facilitated by the CSC.
Pyers deeply appreciates the ability of CSC program staff to adapt to changing circumstances due to the pandemic.
“The fact that the [CSC] was able to support my research program and teaching under these circumstances as they basically scrambled to meet all the requirements to stay open, to ensure their children were supported and getting the right kind of education, and [that] their staff have been supported by their needs, I think that’s something I will be eternally grateful for, ”she said.
Pyers also praised the WCCC, where her 3-year-old daughter attends a classroom. According to the WCCC’s “COVID-19 Memorandum of Understanding” required for every family to sign, the program requires children over two to wear masks, requires children who have traveled outside of New England to New England. York and New Jersey to provide a COVID-19 PCR Test, and no longer allow parents to drop children off in classrooms, which was once standard practice.
“I appreciate their efforts to reduce the number of people inside this building,” Pyers said.
For Professor Chipo Dendere of the Department of African Studies, who has also placed her 15-month-old daughter at WCCC, “the excellent pupil / teacher ratio” and the requirement of the daily health form also make her more comfortable. to place her child in custody. of the WCCC.
However, Dendere also believes that worrying about childcare has put more pressure on the already exhausting semester during the pandemic.
“A lot of teachers and staff are having to put together this hodgepodge of childcare because of COVID. It is very expensive, ”said Dendere. “I also want to recognize how lucky and privileged we are [are] to be able to afford it at a time when so many people cannot.
Dendere also pointed to the additional strain felt specifically by parents in addition to concerns about the pandemic.
“We’re going to see a lot of mental exhaustion because the mental gymnastics that you have to do every day worrying about safety and epidemics is really boring,” she said.
For Wendy, the flexibility offered by the arrangement with her boss gives her the ability to ensure the safety of her child while she finishes her job.
“I always do my job, I just do it at different times, that’s all,” she said. “I love Wellesley and love my job, but when it does, my child comes first. She has to do it, because I have no choice.