Loudoun County is closing two libraries to create space for child care centers for county employees. The move is a response to child care needs caused by the 100 percent virtual learning model embraced by the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). On Monday, the Ashburn and Rust Libraries began curbside pickup only operations.
“This proposal was developed without knowledge or input by [the library Board of Trustees] or library administration,” read meeting notes from the August 28 Loudoun County Public Library (LCPL) Board of Trustees meeting. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors (LCBS) made the decision in a straw poll, but the board is expected to formally vote on the issue in a closed meeting on Tuesday, September 1. The child care centers are scheduled to open Monday, September 7.
No end date to the program is specified, but the LCPL meeting notes state that the facilities will remain as child care centers even after the LCPS transitions to a hybrid learning model.
“Because of [the LCPS’] decision to start the 2020-2021 school year as 100 percent distance learning, the County and LCPS have been assessing the need for child care among county employees and LCPS employees,” Loudoun County Public Affairs and Communications Officer Glenn Barbour told The Virginia Star in an email. “We determined that our employees have a need since students will be home.”
The library’s meeting notes state, “Closing two of the busiest libraries in the county would have major impacts on thousands of citizens’ access to library services, especially access to computers, in-person staff assistance, study space, and browsing of library collections.”
“[LCPL] Director [Chang] Liu and her team have determined that it will be possible to provide curbside service at both libraries, so library staff will still be working full-time within the libraries,” LCPL Board of Trustees Chair Denis Cotter said in an email to The Virginia Star. Library staff will not be filling child care roles.
The LCPL has 10 branches, but the Ashburn and Rust Libraries handle 37 percent of items checked in and out of the system, according to reporting by WTOP. WTOP reported that the two libraries will provide space for 56 children, out of the 1,000 seats the county needed.
Barbour said the primary intention of the program was to support county and LCPS staff, and registration opens this week. The county has been considering how to add child care for employees for several weeks. “The County assessed many locations throughout the county for this program including schools, community centers, and libraries. To increase capacity, the Board decided that the use of two of the nine library branches was necessary. In addition to the two library sites, five community centers, 11 elementary schools, and up to three leased facilities will also be used for this program, so services will be provided at multiple locations throughout the community, ” Barbour said.
After the registration for county and LCPS staff is complete, the county expects to have some additional space in the program. Barbour said, “We anticipate the program will be advertised to other parents in the community in the coming days. As I mentioned, space allowed is limited.”
Director of the Loudoun County Health Department David Goodfriend told The VirginiaStar that the COVID-19 health concerns for children and staff in libraries is the same as in schools or other locations. “A key area of concern for large school systems is how they can best assure effective symptom screening, and maintaining six foot distancing and mask wearing at each of their schools,” Goodfriend said. He noted that the county has been operating some child care facilities for several months. “Definitely we work with them to see if they have any questions or concerns with being able to meet those criteria,” he said.
“[At] the childcare facilities they have had, so far, there have been no concerns,” Goodfriend said.
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