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JBLM youth programs announce plans for fall, plus explain quarantine rules and refunds for families

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As Joint Base Lewis-McChord officials scramble to find more spaces for military families suddenly in need of day-long childcare for their school aged children, youth program officials emphasized Wednesday that they’ll do their best to help children stay connected to their remote learning during their time in on-base programs this fall, but said, they “can’t make the kids” do their school work.

“We don’t work for the school districts,” Norma Melo, JBLM School liaison officer said.

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Officials also announced that children in on-base programs will quarantine for 10 days following outbreaks and that fees are not currently refunded if under 14 days.

These issues and more were discussed yesterday during a Townhall Meeting on JBLM’s MWR Facebook page.

Sophia (Bea) Westcott-Curl, coordinator, child & youth services, said base officials recognize the challenges.

“We are working diligently to reduce conflict between mission and family responsibilities,” Westcott-Curl added.

Students of JBLM servicemembers attend roughly 20 different school districts across the area, and while most will be 100% remote to start the school year, this presents a challenge for child care staff not certified to teach school aged children.

Melo said school kids enrolled in JBLM’s programs will sit inside classrooms of 10. Staff will help those kids log into their school classrooms each day, however, they won’t be able to overly intrude seeing that would disrupt the other children all dialed into different virtual classrooms at the same time, plus disrupt each of their individual teachers and classmates.

“This is not the perfect solution,” Melo said. But she said it does provide a safe environment for kids with adult supervision and limited assistance.

“Everyone is doing this for the first time,” Melo added.

Westcott-Curl said childcare staff also won’t force kids to do their work – that will take collaboration with the student, parent, school and childcare staff.

Off base, some childcare facilities might be better set up for curriculum help.

Brett Gardner at Horizon Learning Center in Lacey said, "Horizon and Puyallup Learning Centers (their sister site) have three teachers available to help children of the ages K-12 with their online school set up and curriculum." 

Candace Iavarone, outreach coordinator with child and youth services said contrary to some rumors, there is currently available daycare off the base, however as other parents of school age children across the region scramble for care, those spaces will quickly fill to capacity.

At JBLM, officials have expanded care to another 70 families originally on a waiting list by converting the youth center on base to handle school aged care. Currently, families that were enrolled in daycare on base before March and who are single parents or dual military parents have all been offered care on base for the fall. Military with a working spouse have the next priority, but Iavarone said 200 of those families are still trying to be placed. The base currently has room for roughly 920 kids.

Fees do apply for all day school-aged care – a cost many families didn’t have to pay prior to remote learning models. Children quarantined due to any outbreaks will still be charged full rates to the families if the quarantine lasts less than 14 days. Iavarone said base officials are trying to appeal that, however those decisions are made at a higher level than JBLM.

Westcott-Curl said to date only one incident has required quarantine. A child tested positive recently at the Beachwood facility, however due to strict protocols, the entire facility did not have to close down.

“Those directly impacted were notified and quarantined according to CDC guidelines,” Westcott-Curl said.

The procedure for quarantined children this fall will be isolation at home, Westcott-Curl said. Children can return after 10 days from the onset of symptoms and must be without a fever and without fever-reducing medications for 24 hours, plus their symptoms must have been reduced.

Different than the spring, Melo said school districts will require attendance check-ins throughout the day, plus work will be graded. She said some private schools will offer in-school programs this fall, but said the military doesn’t provide financial support.

Holy Family, a Catholic school in Lacey is a small school and will offer another option, for example.

“Our Plan A for reopening in the Fall 2020 is full time, every day, face-to-face classes, with intense attention to keeping all health recommendations in order for all classes to stay open all year,” said Christina Alton, principal at Holy Family. “The school has all the right ingredients to create a brilliant top-notch educational experience,” Alton added.

For more information of how JBLM supports parents, go to

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