Challenging times

Churches trying to provide daycare solution if teachers walk out

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Teacher Strike, Yukon Public Schools, Yukon Progress, Yukon's Newspaper
Alicia Priest, OEA President

By Mindy Ragan Wood, Staff Writer – Churches planning to provide supplemental childcare for needy families in the event of a teacher walkout face challenges in their quest to help.

First United Methodist Church Associate Pastor James Hunt said the church passed a resolution to explore how they may be able to provide childcare. He said local churches have overwhelmingly responded to the need, but there some obstacles to address.

“At the last Ministerial Alliance meeting, we usually have six or eight churches show up and there were 30,” Hunt said. “Not all 30 churches can take kids, but there are several who are trying.  Startup churches who don’t have their own buildings or sanctuary are trying to organize volunteers to help deliver food, things like that.”

Insurance providers to churches do not necessarily cover a program like the one necessary to provide childcare to a massive number of children. Hunt said their church could provide childcare for two weeks, after which time their insurance company defines the outreach as a new program which is not covered under existing policies. Other churches are in the same predicament or have internal church policies that would have to be changed to move forward.

Still, Hunt says everyone is committed to find a solution that fits their fellowship.

“The schools have to help us decide which kids needs this the most…kids on free and reduced lunches, that’s 1,900 kids and there’s nowhere near that many churches. The tricky plan is how to make sure the churches available are there for the families who need it most,” he said.

The Yukon Ministerial Alliance will meet with Superintendent Jason Simeroth Wednesday morning to discuss how the district and churches can accommodate the most critical needs. The scheduled walkout is April 2, less than five days after the meeting with the alliance.

“Hopefully our legislature can get it together before then,” Hunt said. “I hope all this is not going to be necessary.”

Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Educator’s Association and a Yukon resident, is holding out hope the legislature could pass a bill that meets the OEA’s expectations.

“There’s always hope,” Priest said. “A former (state) senator told me they had a shell bill together and signed on the governor’s desk in five days. It’s been done before and we know legislators are talking and working through what it is they need to do to get to that magic 75 percent (vote).”

Revenue bills must pass the House and Senate by a three-fourths majority, according to the Oklahoma Constitution.

Superintendent Jason Simeroth could not be reached for comment. Calls to the Yukon Ministerial Alliance were not returned at press time.