High school students offer free babysitting

On the last day of school at Oak Harbor High School before mandatory closure, teachers handed their students a list of resources that will allow them to continue their education online during the COVID-19 emergency.

Meanwhile, one OHHS sophomore rushed to establish a coalition of babysitters to help parents in need during the health crisis.

Phoenix Lester spent her last day of school collecting contact information from some of her friends and other students who are willing to babysit for working parents during the school closures.

“The whole reasoning behind this is the preschoolers, elementary kids and the high schoolers are going to be home and the parents have to work,” Lester said. “Since schools aren’t taking in kids, a lot of high schoolers are familiar with helping.”

As of Monday, Lester said she had just over 10 students who agreed to make themselves available to babysit. Those students will babysit for free for eight hours per day, Monday to Friday, during the six-week closure.

The babysitters are only asking that parents cover costs for for their food or travel.

Lester said the babysitters are expected to ensure the children are safe, fed and clean while the parents are at work. She said babysitter services will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis, though she would like to give priority to health care workers, first responders and food service workers.

While she estimates the current group of sitters can watch about 20 children a day, Lester said she isn’t sure that all of the volunteers will be available every day.

“We might have to switch off,” Lester said. “I don’t think the volunteers are going to want to give up every day.”

Lester said she is still working on getting more volunteers.

Lester’s original plan was to gather volunteers over the course of a week. When Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced the emergency school closures this past Friday, Lester said her plan was condensed to one day.

She plans to spread awareness of the service that she and her cohort are providing Tuesday and officially begin watching kids on Wednesday.

Lester said most of the volunteers are friends of hers and students from the Oak Harbor High School Robotics club.

• Any students who would like to volunteer or any parents who would like utilize one of the babysitters may call Lester at 360-969-3768.

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