Park City School District Child Care Center looks to the community for help
After 40 years of providing healthy and educational care for local kids, the Park City School District Child Care Center is in danger of closing down.
The culprit is the novel coronavirus, says Director Sue Pannebaker.
“COVID has had a drastic affect our small nonprofit center beyond measure,” Pannebaker said. “We had to close in March like everyone else due to the pandemic, and since we reopened on Aug. 15, we have had to reduce our capacity to almost 50%.”
The smaller numbers are the result of new arrangements families have made for their children during the pandemic.
“Since people were staying home more, many of the parents who would regularly sign up have called in nannies, babysitters or extended family who watch their children,” Pannebaker said. “We usually average 86 to 92 children, but that is no longer the case.”
The Park City School District Child Care Center looks after infants, toddlers, 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds, as well as children who are preschool and elementary school ages, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, when school is in session, according to Pannebaker.
The center is located at Park City High School, 1750 Kearns Blvd.
“Our mission and philosophy is to provide affordable and quality care,” she said. “We strive to make it available for all the parents in our community.”
The center’s curriculum differs between age groups, Pannebaker said.
“The elementary school kids comes in on Fridays when they get out of school early at noon,” she said. “We call them our Panther Club.”
While the younger kids get to participate in circle time with songs and stories, the pre-school kids get the opportunity for eight weeks of ski lessons, to go ice skating at the Park City Ice Arena and participate in gymnastics and tennis at PC MARC.
“We also hop on the bus and take trips to the Swaner EcoCenter for some snowshoeing or a field trip at the Park City Museum,” Pannebaker said. “This year will be different due to COVID, but we do as much as we can.”
Although the care center sports the Park City School District name, it is an independent organization, Pannebaker said.
“We have no affiliation with them, but they are an extreme support system for us,” she said. “They offer the track, Dozier Field, their gym and baseball fields.”
The school district also gives its students opportunities to volunteer and work with the children, said Ashley Baer, the center’s administrative assistant.
“Our background screens through the district, and these students work with the Special Needs Education program or are part of the Honors Society and Student Council, who need service hours for scholarships,” Baer said.
The Park City School District Child Care Center runs yearly on an approximate budget of $420,000, which solely comes from enrollment, Pannebaker said.
It also runs on a skeleton crew of 12, said.
“Since our numbers have dropped due to COVID-19, we are pretty much going day-by-day,” Pannebaker said. “We’ve never had to ask the community for help before, so this is new to us.”
The center will join the Park City Community Foundation’s Live PC Give PC day of giving on Nov. 6, and people can start donating now, by visiting pcsdccc.org.
One of the unforeseen expenses during the pandemic was for personal protective equipment, Baer said.
“We have to provide everyone with smocks, masks and gloves,” she said.
Those precautions and other implemented regulations are important for the safety of the children and staff, Baer said.
“We do a curbside drop-off, and we do symptom monitoring from the vehicle, where we check temperatures, and go through a checklist,” she said. “We also require children ages 3 and older to wear masks.”
The protocols don’t seem to interfere with the children’s fun at the center, said Baer.
“They are just so happy to be here, and see their friends,” she said. “That helps me, because I can get away from the outside world and be with kids who are happy to see friends, sing songs and play outside.”
Pannebaker, who has run the center for the past 10 years, enjoys being with the children and getting to know the families.
“Our number one priority is to meet families’ needs, whatever they may be, and our role is to have each child leave here with boosted self-esteem,” Pannebaker said. “It’s so rewarding to give these children a little guidance and see them flourish and turned onto learning as they go through our program.”
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