AUSTIN, Texas - The state is in the process of creating a COVID-19 tracking system for public schools. The data will help the Texas Education Agency monitor and report cases found in children and staff.
On Thursday, the Health and Human Services Commission released COVID-19 data gathered from child care centers, school-age programs, and before and after school programs.
Kiddie Academy of Buda has managed to keep the virus out of its new facility. Owner Sarita Gohil said they were nervous to open their doors in the middle of the pandemic but recognized the need for childcare in Central Texas.
“It’s been interesting for sure obviously opening a new business has challenges for anybody,” said Gohil. “Opening up during a pandemic has added to those challenges some of it has been a learning curve but we’ve been blessed to have a great community.”
The 10,000 square foot facility takes care of about 60 kids anywhere from six weeks to four years old. Kiddie Academy Director Sheralyn Oliver said she believes they’ve been able to be successful because of the staff’s diligence and parents' trust. Every morning both children and staff have their temperatures checked and groups of children are kept small to limit exposure.
“We work really hard on keeping everything clean, anytime a group comes out on the playground we come out with a bleach solution and we bleach the entire playground before another group can come out,” said Oliver.
The state’s new childcare data shows a lengthy list of facilities across the state; some places have reported one case while and others reported as many as 11 cases.
Texans Care for Children, a state organization advocating for families, applauded the state’s transparency. CEO of the nonprofit Stephanie Rubin said she’d like to see the state dive into the data and compare facilities to learn what is working where and what isn’t.
“That’s not only useful for childcare and for parents searching for childcare but also for schools who are making really tough decisions about all the measures they can put in place,” said Rubin.
Rubin has a 4th grader still waiting for Austin ISD classes to begin. Although she’d love for her kid to be back in a classroom she says Austin is not ready yet. However, the new COVID-19 tracking system the state is working on may help schools get there.
“For everybody who wants kids to get back in the classroom it’s really important that we deal with coronavirus immediately and everyone does their part,” said Rubin.
Texans Care for Children is advocating for additional funding to support childcare. They are waiting on Congress to vote on the stimulus package and are urging state leaders to prioritize Texas families in this next fiscal session.