PlayYard Concepts shares best practices while adjusting to COVID

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APALACHIN, NY – The pandemic has heightened challenges that already existed surrounding childcare, both for families and caregivers, and one local provider wants to share some best practices.

PlayYard Concepts, located inside the Apalachin Elementary School, is currently closed as the Owego-Apalachin Elementary School has temporarily returned to fully remote learning and closed the building.

With more kids stuck at home, PlayYard Concepts has launched a video contest called “It’s a Great Day to Teach Kids Something New.”

Participants are encouraged to upload fun, educational videos for children to enjoy at home.

It could be an at-home fitness exercise, do-it-yourself craft or cooking class.

PlayYard founder and Executive Director Chris Benjamin says the unknown has been the hardest part of dealing with the pandemic.

“You can make a plan, like we did reopen in the school and we have been operating but then the next thing you know you really have to worry about it again. Making sure that you’re making the right choices by reopening. Fiscally it’s another challenge but we are just working through it,” she says.

Benjamin worked with TEAM Tioga, which assisted PlayYard Concepts in writing a grant for emergency funding from the Community Foundation of South Central New York.

When it reopened for the school year, the before and after-school childcare provider was capped at 15 students, down from the 57 families that were enrolled before the pandemic.

The Tioga County Economic Development and Planning Department recently conducted a survey of almost 300 families and discovered that significant gaps in service exist in the county.

In addition to capacity restrictions, many families are leery of relying on elderly relatives for daycare as they have in the past.

“A number of parents in the survey and caregivers in the survey responded that they would have to either resign from their positions or move to less hours. So, what we’re seeing is that this issue is having a critical impact on our workforce,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson says the Economic Development and Planning Department is working with local employers to encourage more of them to allow their staff to work remotely or have more flexible schedules.

The department is also putting together a childcare task force to explore additional strategies.

If you want to participate in the contest, upload your video at http://PlayYardConcepts.org.

Selected videos will be featured on the site and some will receive cash prizes.

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