A Call to Serve: How One Catholic School Helped Essential Workers
As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to unfold, numerous heroes have emerged, including educators, healthcare providers, and essential workers. In many of these cases, childcare quickly became the number one concern and worry. In the state of Kentucky, for example, the government closed all of the daycare centers in the county as part of their state-wide plan to slow the spread of COVID-19. The only daycare centers allowed to remain open were “Limited Duration Childcare Centers,” which were approved to provide temporary emergency child care to employees of a healthcare entity, first responders, military, domestic violence shelters, and more.
In Madisonville, Kentucky, there was a dire need for one of these special daycare centers. Lesley Mills, principal of Christ the King Catholic School and a participant of Cohort 8 in the 2019 Latino Enrollment Institute, heard about the need through Facebook and did not hesitate to spring into action. “Essential workers can’t worry about their kids,” Mills said. “They need a safe place.”
Principal Mills quickly applied for an exemption to transform the Catholic school into a center caring for the children of essential workers. By Monday, March 27, Principal Mills and her team opened up their childcare center to 10 children. Today, Christ the King has 46 children on their list, with an average of 25 children attending per day, depending on parents’ schedules.
For Principal Mills and her staff, the decision to assist essential workers was easy and clearcut. “We only have nine on staff, including myself, and we all agreed to work. No one was forced to do this; they all agreed in order to help out our community. Without a daycare, there would be several healthcare workers who would not be able to work.”
The Christ the King school community has all pitched in order to make the transition to a childcare facility seamless. In the center, the older children work on school work from their teachers, and younger kids learn age-appropriate tasks from the Christ the King staff. A federal meals program allows the cafeteria staff to provide free breakfast and lunch as well as a mid-morning snack to all students. Mills has desired to make the center as welcoming and as "normal as possible" for the kiddos coming.
The benevolence of the staff at Christ the King has not gone unnoticed by the essential workers whom Christ the King Catholic School is serving. “All of the parents have been very supportive,” stated Principal Mills. “One of our healthcare parents told us that they (healthcare workers) have to work and that we don't, so they really appreciate us loving their kids and being here for them during this crazy time.”
Principal Mills realizes that she and her staff are placing themselves at risk as well as they take care of the children of workers who are on the front lines battling the COVID-19 virus, but they remain undeterred. “We honestly believe that God's hand is in all of this. We have been very vigilant with our sanitizing, checking temps of everyone who comes in the building, washing hands, etc, but God is keeping us safe and healthy.”
Our Catholic schools are called to be signs of hope and active parts of our communities, and Christ the King has responded with swiftness, creativity, and dedication to this call. While the essential workers in Madisonville, Kentucky, continue to be recognized for their heroic efforts, we can also add Christ the King staff to this valiant list as well.