A crucial aspect of a successful harvest is having childcare in place for essential workers, and COVID-19 has forced significant modifications this year.

The Oregon Childhood Development Coalition (OCDC) provides childcare for migrant workers for children aged 6 weeks to 6 years.

New physical distancing rules make busing unworkable, so workers will drop their kids off at childcare, said Jennifer Heredia, program director for OCDC in Wasco and Hood River counties.

To accommodate this, OCDC will open 30 minutes early, at 4:30 a.m. Staff will take the temperature of every child every day, and ask three health-related questions. Parents will drop kids off outside the building.

To the extent possible, children will be kept in stable groups of 10, with the same staff. That is down from the normal class size of 20.

Groups of children will use the playground in shifts, and the playground will be cleaned between each shift. Significant new cleaning regimens will also be in place.

OCDC will open June 11, once ordered supplies, including handwashing stations, arrive. They also hope to hire 20 aides. As a result, enrollment was delayed from June 2 to June 4.

Older children ages 7-11 are served by the Migrant Education Program. It is also seeing significant changes, including classes at orchards instead of a central location. Local officials have worked to get Wi-Fi hotspots to orchards to facilitate learning and telemedicine.

The location and number of outdoor classrooms hasn’t been determined, but Dr. Jonathan Fost, director of the Migrant Education Program for the Columbia Gorge Education Service District, anticipates 12-20 remote classes.

Class size will be limited to 10 per class and they will meet three hours a day, three times a week, for five weeks.

For more information, contact OCDC at 541-340-1639.

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