As Hawaii parents head back to work, many face another challenge: No child care

Updated: May. 20, 2020 at 8:40 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the kamaaina economy reopens and many parents start heading back to work, some are now facing a new challenge: No child care.

Because of social distancing rules, day cares have fewer slots available and most summer school classes will be held online so kids will still be at home on a computer screen.

Maui hair stylist Michelle Bell is eager to get back to work on Monday. But as a single mother, finding care for her three boys has been a challenge.

“I’m here on the island by myself. I have no family or anyone here. So, for me, I really relied on their school and their after-school programs and now there isn’t any,” Bell said.

Bell found a neighbor willing to help, but she knows many other parents are stuck.

“Even though people are able to go back to work, there’s nobody to watch the kids and they’re going to be at home for what, four, five months, they’re going crazy,” Bell said.

Currently, there are few solid options and many unknowns.

The Honolulu YMCA is allowing registrations, but the city’s popular Summer Fun program is on hold until further notice. Hawaii’s public schools are offering summer courses, but most are virtual.

“We have some students where distance learning does not work. It’s not effective for them,” said Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto.

Kishimoto said there will be some limited face-to-face classes for kids with special needs.

“There will be small groups of opportunities in person. We will be keeping those small. Our goal is to be at six to eight maximum in a room, unless it’s a special ed service and some of those because they are high touch will be three or less students potentially with a provider,” Kishimoto said.

Kishimoto said they are also launching a pilot program in which mobile classrooms will try to reach students in rural areas on Kauai, Molokai, Kau and Hana where internet service may be spotty.

The e-school plan was announced on Tuesday, and registration is already closed with a wait list lengthening.

Bell says even with her neighbor helping, she can’t go back to work full-time. She is on the lookout for new ideas. “If churches reopen, if they had some kind of capacity of how many kids, then maybe that would be ideal,” she said. Currently, though, churches are only allowed to offer drive-in services.

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