About 1 million students will be out of school by the end of the week in Tennessee due to closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
This means many parents will need child care, so Gov. Bill Lee is asking individuals, organizations and churches to pitch in.
The question of where children will go as schools close has been a frequent one. Lee is encouraging informal arrangements to help fulfill the need for child care, rather than a government solution. He told reporters the state wants kids to stay with their neighbors during this time, in the spirit of volunteerism.
“We have great needs and families are faced with great dilemmas around the issues that present when schools are closed and their children come home,” Lee said.
The governor wants those who do become caretakers to inform the Department of Human Services so they can be tracked and officials can perform background checks. And he says his administration is looking to loosen up some rules during the emergency.
A spokesman for the Department of Human Services says so far no regulations have been relaxed. It’s issued guidance for families and organizations that want to provide group child care (which can be found here).
Lee is also encouraging churches to “adopt” nearby schools and their families “and help in anyway you can to alleviate the burden.”
Meanwhile, the state has been given $10 million from the federal government to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Lee’s office says that money will go into child care — in the form of grants to existing child care facilities licensed by DHS.
He says the funds will help them adjust to “the changing environment.”