Barely two weeks into this new year, the Carole Robertson Center for Learning – and the children, families, and communities we serve — has faced extraordinary challenges connected to the dramatic surge in COVID cases. Although all of our direct service staff members are vaccinated, the rise in breakthrough cases, as well as positive cases among the children and families we serve, has forced us to temporarily close classrooms and facilities at a rate that surpasses anything since Illinois’ stay-at-home order in March 2020.
For two years now, the COVID pandemic has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on historically marginalized communities and communities of color across our city, including the communities we serve. The recent case surge has reinforced for us how pervasive the Omicron strain has become. As an organization that serves children of all ages, including those under five for whom vaccinations are not yet available, the Carole Robertson Center must be especially vigilant in stewarding the health and safety of all.
While our goal has been to do everything we can to maintain in-person learning, we have had to make difficult decisions to keep our staff and families safe. As of this week, our North Lawndale site remains closed to in-person early childhood education programs until mid-month, and our facilities in Little Village and Albany Park are experiencing classroom closures due to staffing shortages caused by the positivity rate. When necessary, we’ve shifted to virtual programs and the distribution of essential items such as food, diapers and learning materials, re-energizing the muscles we flexed during full-remote programming in the early part of the pandemic.
Our top priority continues to be the health and well-being of our children and families, staff, and communities. We have put several key protocols in place to mitigate risk and meet the evolving needs of our constituents:
- Implementing biweekly and/or weekly COVID screening for onsite employees to mitigate the spread of COVID and foster a safe environment.
- Covering the cost of up to 10 quarantine days for our staff members, rather than requiring them to take sick leave or unpaid time off.
- Coordinating daily distributions of essential resources such as diapers, formula, food, and learning kits for enrolled families at all of our locations.
- Maintaining regular communication with families through our mental health and family support teams to ensure they are receiving supports.
- Offering full-day programming to our out-of-school-time youth who might be impacted by CPS closures so that parents can continue to work, knowing their children are in a safe and nurturing place.
Your partnership and support is especially critical as we face additional challenges and unanticipated costs related to testing and mitigation, resource distribution, and staff support. Please consider donating today to help us respond with speed and agility to these ever-changing needs.
As always, with your support and generosity, the Carole Robertson Center will do what is necessary to keep our staff safe and provide the highest levels of care and services to the children, youth, and families we serve across Chicago.
In partnership and service,
President & CEO