Evanston parents discuss the importance of summer childcare

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Daily file illustration by Carly Schulman

Some Evanston parents said this summer is looking more normal than last.

Olivia Alexander, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

While most summer camps around Evanston closed last summer due to COVID-19, this year looks different as programs return to in-person activities.

Earlier this month, guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed to allow three feet of space between children in school settings rather than six in communities where transmission is high. Additionally, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recently became available for children aged 12 to 15 in Evanston and Chicago. Illinois’ entry to the Bridge Phase between Phases 4 and 5 also means the state will reopen entirely in the upcoming months.

With these changes, some Evanston parents said they’re more comfortable sending their children to in-person summer programming.

Evanston resident Kristen White said it was important to find something for her 11-year-old daughter to do this summer, especially because she was “fairly isolated” from peers her age for months on end. said she isn’t as concerned about COVID-19 this summer, both because of vaccine distribution and programs implementing viral spread mitigation measures.

White said many kids fear whether their friendships will have survived the pandemic once they return to school in the fall. As a result, she said she hopes summer camps will give her daughter the opportunity to socialize in a safe environment.

“The most important thing is that my daughter has the opportunity to have fun and to be in human contact with other peers her age,” White said. “She can start having the opportunities to socialize again and build that comfort and confidence in socializing with youth her age.”

However, many of the camps her daughter will attend are half-day programs, so White will have to work from home more often or seek other childcare options.

Bettye Cohns, executive director of Reba Early Learning Center, said the facility is currently open to maximum capacity.

Cohns said parents hoping to return to work will have to rely on childcare options. While higher-income families have more options in terms of summer childcare, those with lower incomes might not have as many, and risk not being able to return to in-person work, she said.

“Hopefully they will have some type of other support system, (but) often they don’t,” Cohns said. “They don’t have a relative or anyone to care for their child, so those families are struggling.”

Meredith Rogowski is a co-director of Camp DIY, where art educators and local artists teach sewing, painting, drawing and weaving to students. She said camp organizers feel better about opening the space to a greater number of students now that the Pfizer vaccine is available to 12- to 15-year-olds.

Camp DIY invites middle school helpers to support teachers during the camp, and Rogowski said because of the vaccine rollout, they can invite three per classroom.

The camp is following the same protocols as Evanston/Skokie School District 65, although instead of three feet of social distance, they are maintaining six feet. Rogowski said protocol for quarantine periods will be similar to District 65 plans.

“People are so ready to get back to normal. They’re looking for their regular stuff, what camps their kids would normally attend,” Rogowski said. “That’s what they’re hoping to sign up for, to have a normal summer.”

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Twitter: @oliviagalex

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