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Stoney Urges School Board Action On Emergency Childcare

mayor levar stoney standing at a podium
Mayor Levar Stoney speaking at Wednesday's COVID-19 press conference. (Courtesy of the City of Richmond livestream)

Mayor Levar Stoney says he’s sending a letter to the Richmond School Board this week, urging them to get agreements in place to start offering emergency childcare by the end of the month. 

Stoney has promised $3 million federal CARES Act funding for child care at five public schools. He’s also promising another $1 million to increase enrollment at existing community childcare centers. The service would prioritize low-income families and the kids of essential workers struggling with the transition to online learning.

Stoney said Wednesday the only holdup is an agreement between the school board and childcare providers.

“We will need the school board to sign off on that agreement — sign off on the model that we know currently works — and once we get that done, we can get the kids in childcare quickly,” he said at his weekly COVID-19 press conference. 

School officials in Richmond initially requested a contract with the city, but Stoney now wants them to sign agreements with individual childcare providers. Those providers and their insurance providers would then be liable in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak. Stoney said it’s a similar model to how the expanded after school program already works. 

At Monday’s meeting, a school board lawyer, Jonnell Lilly, raised concerns about liability for facilities maintenance and potential infections.

“The City Attorney’s Office is not recommending to the city that they sign an agreement that would potentially make them liable for following childcare regulations because they will not be the entity that is in the building,” Lilly said.

So far, city officials have floated the YMCA of Greater Richmond and the Peter Paul Development Center as two possible childcare providers for Richmond Public Schools. The YMCA has already received city funds to open two non-school childcare facilities at Movement Church in the West End and Battery Park Church in Northside. Stoney said Wednesday that both of those locations are already full and have a waitlist.