How a Texas district provided childcare for essential workers

Ector County ISD in Texas offered free service this summer to children of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers
By: | August 25, 2020
Ector County ISD in Texas operated a free childcare program this summer for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic. (GettyImages/xavierarnau)Ector County ISD in Texas operated a free childcare program this summer for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic. (GettyImages/xavierarnau)

The staff at Ector County ISD’s emergency childcare service this summer knew full well their mission was to serve the children of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who were being exposed to COVID every day.

And these administrators and teachers wanted to provide more than just simple supervision during the free program, which ran from May 6 to the end of June in a district elementary school.

The staff created a camplike experience because having a parent on the frontlines of the pandemic was stressful for the kids, says Ector ISD Assistant Superintendent Alicia Syverson, who spearheaded the program.

“The response was overwhelming,” Syverson says. “We had many parents who chose to keep their kids with us when other childcare centers reopened—which is a huge compliment.”


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The district began planning the emergency childcare service in the early days of the COVID outbreak in March.

Administrators even worked with the region’s state representative to move the program through the regulatory process more quickly.

Ector County ISD then signed an agreement with the two hospitals in the city of Odessa, and ultimately served 42 students—including some from other school districts—with a staff of 24, including cafeteria workers, a secretary and district police officers to provide security.

Ector County ISD childcare staff stepped up to serve the children of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers this summer.

Ector County ISD childcare staff stepped up to serve the children of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers this summer.

“We wanted to ensure our healthcare workers were able to go to work to serve us every day,” she says.

The elementary school was sanitized throughout the day, and parents were not allowed to enter the facility. Many of the activities, such as a kite-flying contest, were held outside.

The district even received donations of masks and PPE from as far away as Chicago, Syverson says.


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And, the day-to-day director quarantined herself from her family while the childcare was open. “Our staff made sure they were doing all they could do to protect themselves and their families, knowing they were coming into contact with children people who were being exposed every day.”

Ector County ISD reopened earlier this month with limited in-person instruction.

“But if for someone reason we have to close again, we’re prepared to do the childcare all over again,” Syverson says.


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.