Wednesday April 24th, 2024 12:06AM

YMCA Learning Center celebrates one year anniversary

When the YMCA Learning Center of Gainesville opened on Feb. 24, 2020, staff members had no idea that a global pandemic would come the following month.

The Georgia Mountains YMCA partnered with Evangel Church in Gainesville to open their new daycare, and according to Cassandra Whisnant, Program Director for the YMCA Learning Center, they had been opened and licensed for only three weeks before COVID-19 affected school systems.

"We started with two children enrolled, and at the time COVID took over, we had about six children enrolled," Whisnant said. "So we shifted gears and offered crisis care."

The crisis care the Learning Center offered was geared toward school-aged children of first responders, medical personnel, truck drivers, grocery store workers and others. Originally, the program was closed to other children, but Whisnant said they had to shift their model three weeks in when the stay-at-home order went into place in April.

"Other daycares in the area began to close down as well," Whisnant said. "So families that were still working needed a place to put their children. We took children that didn't have a place to go."

Prior to opening, they already planned for a cleaning crew to come in Monday through Friday to sanitize and clean. Once the pandemic began, staff at the Learning Center began checking temperatures at the door and limiting parents from the facility. Group sizes also shrank, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of October, parents have been allowed to go to their child's door and speak with the teacher, but staff are remaining vigilant with sanitation protocols.

The facility closed for a week before Thanksgiving because too many staff members were exposed to the virus.

"It's definitely been a challenging year of thinking critically and figuring out, 'well, if somebody has to be quarantined for two weeks, what are we going to do?'" Whisnant said.

In September, the Learning Center began offering a drop-in program that allowed parents to choose three week days as "drop-in days," and Whisnant said the response to that has been overwhelming.

The program now serves over 40 children, which is a little under half capacity, and Whisnant attributes the growth to the staff.

"The employees come to work every day giving their best," Whisnant said. "We love our kids and we love our families, and we love them hard."

More information about the Learning Center's daycare and other services can be found on their website.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: gainesville, YMCA, COVID-19, YMCA Learning Center, daycare
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