The Greater Burlington YMCA has reversed its plan to charge families for childcare during the current closure of its centers, set to last until at least April 1. CEO and president Kyle Dodson sent families a note Tuesday afternoon saying the nonprofit would not make additional charges and would give a credit to families who had already paid for next week. The Y shared the note with Seven Days Wednesday morning. It reads:
Dear Y Child Care Families,
I hope that this email finds you well in difficult times.
Yesterday, we outlined a plan for child care payments that we have now reconsidered. We had expected to charge through next week, but we have reversed that decision. We will not be making any additional charges for child care – beyond those already processed – until we have firm information concerning the date that we will reopen. If you have already paid for next week, we will issue a credit to your account.
Please know that we are doing our best to identify a clear path in a changing landscape. We apologize for anxiety that we created in what we know is a stressful time.
We will reach out again when we know more about reopening. It is a day we look forward to with great anticipation.
Many of the Vermont childcare centers that are closing because of coronavirus have asked parents to keep paying tuition of roughly $250 to $300 a week so that they don't have to lay off teachers.
The Greater Burlington YMCA is among them. All but one of its early childcare programs will close by the end of Tuesday to reduce the risk of community spread of the coronavirus. They will remain shuttered until at least April 1. Dodson said the nonprofit has asked parents to continue to pay tuition to keep the operation afloat. It was a difficult decision, with no real precedent, he said.
"I can't base it on what we did last time, because there wasn't a last time," Dodson told Seven Days Monday.
Dodson said he didn't know whether some parents would be unwilling or unable to pay, or how the Y would respond.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Dodson said.
The Y early childhood programs serve around 225 infants and children. One early childhood program the Y runs for the University of Vermont Medical Center will continue to operate. "To serve that vital workforce, that program will remain open at this time," the Y announcement explained. All other Y programs and the Y's athletics facility are suspending operation.
The door of the Greater Burlington YMCA Tuesday
The operators of seven Loveworks/Heartworks/STEAMworks childcare centers in Vermont have also asked parents to pay, for now at least, though they will be closed until at least April 3.
Some parents have responded with "gratitude" because they want to help the centers to survive, Amanda Goodwin, director of marketing and communications, told Seven Days. Others are resistant because they don't want to pay or can't. Some say their income is affected by the pandemic, Goodwin said.
Turtle Island Children's Center in Montpelier is asking the families of its 85 children to pay tuition after it closes Wednesday. It plans to stay shut until at least April 6.
Tuesday, many parents indicated such strong support for the decision that "it actually brought me to tears," Vicky Senni, the codirector, said. But others indicated they were struggling and didn't know how they could pay. One family said they might withdraw their child. She said the center would try and evaluate each family's situation.
The center's teachers will work from home on professional development courses and video lessons. "They are going to be reading stories and doing puppet shows on YouTube so that their children can stay connected to them," Senni said.
With razor-thin margins, the center has few options other than requesting tuition in order to stay open, she said.
Not all of the closed centers are charging. Bethany Logan, a nurse who lives in Fayston, was told she will get a refund from Sugarbush Day School in Warren, which cared for her 6-month-old child.
That's a relief, said Logan, who, with her husband, will be juggling care for their infant, as well as a preschooler who attended a program at Fayston Elementary School that has closed as well.
"I have to go to work. I'm a nurse," Logan said. "My husband and I have been trying to switch our schedules around so that one of us will always be here."