Missouri State University making adjustments for employees needing child care

Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 9:32 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield public school students will be at home for at least three days out of the week when classes start later this month. That’s posing a big challenge for one of Springfield’s largest employers. Now Missouri State University is trying to find ways to help its staff with childcare.

Missouri State will not offer on-campus child care this fall for its thousands of employees. President Clif Smart said grouping children together could undermine health and safety efforts. However, he’s aware how hard this semester could be for those who will need to help their own children learn from home.

Jessica Heinz works in Missouri State University’s communications and marketing department. She also has five Springfield elementary students living in her home, who will need care three days every week this fall.

“I’m sure that’s the same challenge everyone faces who has any kids in school at this point,” Heinz said. “Give them the best experience possible from a virtual standpoint, but how can we continue to be effective at work?”

President Clif Smart said several hundred of the university’s full-time employees might also struggle balancing work with child care.

“We want to be a good employer. We want to do right by our people. We want to be as flexible as we can,” Smart said.

Smart says some staff will be able to adjust their work schedules, and others could potentially work from home. However, he said, there are limits to that because work still has to get done.  

“Maybe you can work four ten hour days instead of five eight hour days, then you have one day you don’t have to worry about,” Smart said.

The university will allow professors to convert upper-level courses to a hybrid model, where classes will meet in person at least once a week and go online the rest. Smart said that won’t be an option for freshmen or lab classes.

“I think we’re going to ask all our people to be flexible as we try to have starts and stops and manage through so people can continue their education,” he said.

Smart said employees can use any kind of leave they have at any time. He wants them to feel safe and supported this semester.

“Our message is, we’re going to work with you to do this the right way,” he said.

Heinz said balancing a career with kids during a pandemic can be chaotic, but she feels comforted taking on this next challenge.

“They’re doing their best to understand and be empathetic to parents like myself,” she said.

Ozarks Technical Community College and Drury University will be handling schedule changes on a case-by-case basis. Evangel University is still working on its plan.

Missouri State University will hold virtual town halls for staff and students Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

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