Scheduled school closings can bring joy for kids and headaches for parents who still need to get to work.
As part of a new program for City of Pittsburgh employees, moms and dads will have the option to take advantage of free on-site childcare for the 15 days throughout the year when Pittsburgh Public Schools are closed, but city offices remain open.
Free childcare also will be provided to members of the public at the 20 annual City-sponsored community meetings. The legislation was introduced earlier this month by City Councilman Dan Gilman and co-sponsored by Councilwoman Deborah Gross.
The idea began with a conversation with a Pittsburgh startup company, Flexable, that provides pop-up childcare for organizations and corporations.
“As a pilot, the City worked with Flexable to host at-work childcare on Election Day and Rosh Hashanah this year,” Gilman says. “Several employees took advantage of the pilot program and responded positively.”
Providing at-work childcare and childcare during community meetings is a win-win for the City of Pittsburgh, its employees, and its residents, he says.
“Data shows that at-work childcare improves productivity, boosts morale and helps to retain and attract the best and brightest workforce,” Gilman says. “With at-work childcare, parents are able to stay at work and provide the highest level of service to the residents of Pittsburgh.”
For Jennifer Gula, an investment officer for the City of Pittsburgh and a single parent, the program makes life simpler for her and her 7-year-old son.
“Most daycare establishments do not accept drop-ins or part-timers,” she says. “This program started by the City makes scheduling so much easier on all of us.”
Gula participated in the two pilot days and thought the program was fantastic.
“Both times my son had a blast,” she says. “He never wanted to leave to go home. The childcare workers kept the kids engaged in all kinds of creative activities. We make a special day of it. He’s excited to come to work with me, and I take him out to lunch.”
Tiffini Simoneaux, the City’s early childhood education manager who helped to lead the pilot program, says the other part of this on-site childcare initiative – providing free childcare services to the public for community meetings – is important for parents who want to be involved in their neighborhoods.
“Childcare poses a huge barrier for families to attend meetings and providing on-site care will help to ensure the voice of more constituents is heard,” she says.
Gilman agrees that parents should not have to take time off from work to be active in their community.
“As a city where the input of all residents is valued,” he says, “the City must remove barriers to civic engagement and community involvement, including the availability and cost of childcare.”