The three school districts in Madison County are starting the year virtually, which left parents wondering if Redstone could provide childcare services for the students who won’t be in the classroom this fall.

According to Garrison Commander Col. Kelsey Smith, who fielded a number of questions from parents during the Garrison’s weekly virtual town hall, the answer is an unfortunate no.

“I understand the strain that probably puts on some of our families, as they think about how to go to work each day while their children are enjoying virtual school,” Smith said. “But again, that’s not necessarily something that I have the resources to solve for you.”

He did say that the services the Child Development Centers provide for families who work on the Arsenal will continue, but the installation simply didn’t have the capacity to accommodate all the students who would normally be in school.

“I empathize and I understand,” Smith said. “But I got to tell you that our child development centers currently have surplus seats available and we expect that as we bring back the workforce, we’ll have more than enough capacity.

“So for those of you that are currently using (the centers), I encourage you to keep your spots and for those of you that are looking for an alternate opportunity for the time being, there are spots available and you’re welcome to sign up.”

He added, once the CDCs reach full capacity then patrons who had a spot before COVID will be given preference.

Another question posed to the colonel during the town hall was would the Arsenal continue to run school age services through the school year since the schools are closed?

“As you know, our school age services is not a school,” he said. “And our school age services is planned and funded and budgeted to provide school age services from 1430 (2:30 p.m.) to 1800 (6 p.m.). each day.

“With children not going to classes, those hours aren’t necessarily functional.

“So I will tell you that I’m going to look into a way to transition school age services to a midday program that may be able to assist in some way, but I can’t guarantee that.

“What I can tell you though, is that school age services cannot become a replacement for your schools and in our school age services we don’t have certified teachers.

“We have CYPAs and so they cannot be a replacement for your children’s education. And so, I encourage you to think about what’s in the best interest of your children and their education and, frankly, our future because that education is more important to each of us today than anything else.”

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