Families in rural Bernalillo County on waitlist for community center childcare

Coronavirus New Mexico

TIJERAS, N.M. (KRQE) – Last week, Bernalillo County put the word out that it would open its community centers for all-day childcare so kids can do online school. County officials got an overwhelming response in one particular area, highlighting the need for families.

A month into the school year, Los Vecinos Community Center in Tijeras is at capacity for students utilizing the county’s offer for all-day care. “We got a very good response,” said James Wolfel, Manager of Los Vecinos Community Center.

Currently, students from Kindergarten through 8th grade utilize the facility. “A lot of different schedules, a lot of different classes,” Wolfel explained. “The staff is overseeing a group of five kids and making sure that they’re in class when they’re supposed to be in class.”

All classes are online for APS students. When Bernalillo County announced it would open up four of its regional community centers for students to receive all-day supervision, lots of families jumped at the opportunity.

While most locations still have spots open for students, the Tijeras community center is the only county community center with a waiting list.

Students socially-distanced doing online school at Los Vecinos Community Center

“I think the wifi access in the area could be one of the reasons, and also parents commuting into town, it’s convenient for them to drop them off here,” explained Wolfel.

“As soon as we got the word out, our phone started ringing off the hook,” Wolfel said. He said they quickly hit a capacity of 25 students, and another 23 are on the waiting list.

Kids wear masks and stay socially-distanced throughout the day in different parts of the building. County staffers help with online school work, giving working families some much-needed relief during a challenging year.

Sign for parents outside Los Vecinos Community Center in Tijeras, N.M.

“The biggest hurdle that families are facing is trying to do their work at home,” said Wolfel. “Working from home and then also assisting their children with their schoolwork, so it’s hard for families to juggle both.”

So far, he said the APS school buses providing WiFi outside the building work well. Kids take breaks outside when they can.

But the best part of their operation, Wolfel said, is seeing the kids interact again. “They’re really happy to see their friends,” he said. “That’s been the best aspect of what we’re doing here.”

The program cost is $60 per week, per child. County community center hours are 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. with breakfast and lunch served.

The City of Albuquerque also has 22 community centers open around town to do school work. About 950 kids are taking advantage of the offer.

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