Boys & Girls Club designated emergency childcare program

Boys & Girls Club designated emergency childcare program

School Resource Officer David Laudon takes the temperature of Keegan Dugas before he enters the Blackstone Valley Boys & Girls Club last week. The club has been designated an “emergency childcare program” by the state of Massachusetts.

BLACKSTONE – While other childcare centers across Massachusetts and Rhode Island were closed this week, the Blackstone Valley Boys & Girls Club on Canal Street is remaining open to care for the children of essential workers and other at-risk families.

Last Friday, March 20, the club was officially designated an “emergency childcare program” by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. The designation allows the club to remain open to care for a limited number of children under state protocols for the remainder of the coronavirus emergency.

The designation comes as other childcare centers across the region were forced to shut down to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Last week, both Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island directed all childcare centers to close amid the outbreak.

Daniel Keefe, chairman of the club’s board of directors, said the club is taking strict measures to prevent the spread of disease, including assigning staff members to watch children in groups of five or fewer and sanitizing surfaces as children move around the facility.

The club is also screening all children and staff members as they enter the facility each morning to take temperatures and check for other symptoms. School Resource Officer David Laudon and members of the Blackstone Fire Department have been assisting with the screening process.

“All the protocols that we’ve already had in place were what (the Department of Early Education and Care) were looking for, and some of our protocols were even beyond what they were requiring,” said Keefe.

Last week, the club began implementing screening protocols as it remained open for 23 children who were previously part of the club’s after-school program and had been displaced by the school closures.

Since then, they’ve been approved to service up to 40 children and have taken on an additional 17 children assigned by the Department of Early Education and Care. These include the children of essential workers during the coronavirus outbreak as well as those considered vulnerable or with no other alternatives for care.

“It’s a pretty wide spectrum,” said Keefe. “It includes sanitation workers, police, fire, DPW workers even, as well as vulnerable children, which means children who have no place else to go other than an elderly grandparent who is more likely to contract the virus.”

Keefe, who is also chairman of the town’s Board of Selectmen, said the club has been in close contact with the Board of Health, first responders, Blackstone-Millville Regional School District and Board of Health Secretary Colleen Strapponi. School officials have been delivering “grab and go” meals for participants directly to the club.

Blackstone-Millville Regional High School Assistant Principal Keith Ducharme and school nutritionist Maureen Gonsalves drop off bagged lunches to the Blackstone Valley Boys & Girls Club.