During a regular meeting on Aug. 27, the Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 school board voted 4-3 in favor of reopening the Huskie Pups daycare at the high school — to the relief of anxious parents who were awaiting the board’s decision. But board members are still anxious about the move, given that it comes amid a pandemic.

Board members Craig Iseli, Matt Baron, Sara Dixon Spivey and Gina Harris voted in favor of reopening while members Ralph Martire, Tom Cofsky and Jackie Moore voted against. 

“I am not comfortable voting for this plan,” said Moore, who wanted administrators to provide more information about how staffers from the River Forest Community Center, which operates the daycare, will make sure infants and toddlers at the facility don’t interact with high schoolers, if and when students return to campus. “A lot of this is too open-ended and can potentially bring a problem into the high school.” 

“A lot of this is too open-ended and can potentially bring a problem into the high school,” said Martire. 

But even board members who voted in favor of reopening expressed some anxiety about the decision. 

“Like Jackie, I am uncomfortable, but I trust that [Community Center and D200 administrators] will sort out our problems, so I will vote yes,” said Iseli.

Dick Chappell, the Community Center’s executive director, tried reassuring hesitant board members on Aug. 27 that he and his staff have implemented best practices and guidelines laid out by numerous agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, on social distancing and other safety measures. 

Ronald C. Anderson, the Community Center’s executive director of operations, added that due to the reduced capacity, there’s enough space to social-distance within the Huskie Pups facility, which is located on the north end of campus. He added that they’ve installed MERV 13 air filters in order to enhance ventilation and filtration within the classrooms. 

At a discussion about Huskie Pups during a board meeting on Aug. 18, Chappell said the daycare at OPRF serves 35 children, a significant drop from the 55 to 65 participants the program has served in years past. 

Most of the participants are employees of districts 97 and 90, he said. At the Aug. 27 meeting, Chappell said Huskie Pups had lost five program participants since that Aug. 18 meeting, with other parents waiting to see what decision the board made. Chappell said on Aug. 18 that if the board did not reopen the daycare program, between 14 and 15 employees would be out of work. 

“People have immediate childcare needs right now, so any future delay I think would be very detrimental,” Chappell said on Aug. 27. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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