For 38 years, elementary school families in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties have come to know Open Door as the nurturing second home for students and their families with the need for before and after care. With programs housed in 22 schools in Baltimore County, 11 schools in Anne Arundel County and two schools in Harford County, Open Door cares for nearly 2,300 students in a normal school year, with approximately 1,200 in Baltimore County. But with schools closing in March in response to the pandemic, and with virtual school being the choice for most area schools this fall, Open Door is working to fill the continued need for school age childcare. The Towson Office opened full day care on August 17th for students who are entering kindergarten through fifth grade and will continue the full day program to support virtual learning once the school year begins on September 8th. Space is still available, although limited.
“We receive calls and emails daily from families throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area who are looking for childcare solutions,” according to Anita Hilson, who joined Open Door in June as the new Executive Director. School age childcare is limited not only in Baltimore, but nationwide. And with many before and after programs offered in schools, the challenge to support working families is one of the many problems school districts face as the new school year rapidly approaches. “Not every parent has the option to work remotely, and not every parent can work effectively with their children at home,” continues Hilson, who is no stranger to working with children and families. Married with two adult daughters and a son-in-law (and always a working mom), she joined Open Door after spending 19 years at McDonogh School in admissions and after 8 years of service on the board of the Baltimore School for the Arts. She follows Jeanne Murphy in that role, the founder of Open Door who established the company because of the need for childcare she faced with her own children. Nurture was at the core of Open Door’s mission then as it is now.
Of the school districts that Open Door serves, only Harford County has confirmed that childcare will be available for before and after care, supporting their Learning Centers. It has been impossible to answer families who ask about the range of services Open Door will offer, as final decisions have yet to be made by school officials about the use of day care providers in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. “We appreciate the difficulty of the decisions school districts face, balancing the need to provide a safe learning environment with the need for childcare for working families,” says Hilson. Open Door, licensed by the Maryland State Department of Education, follows all state and CDC COVID guidance for safety precautions and offered care for children of emergency workers earlier this year.
Last Friday, the Washington Post and other news outlets reported that CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield offered optimism about the reopening of child care centers, based on a study of centers in Rhode Island. This news is encouraging for Hilson, who understands the role of school age childcare in a child’s social development. “Open Door has experienced and caring staff and offers Camelot Learning, a STEM and language arts enrichment program,“ according to Hilson, who added, “with the continuation of remote learning, Open Door and other providers can offer the socialization and academic enrichment that students will miss as remote learning continues this fall. We hope to have the opportunity to serve families in schools this year, but our door is open now at our Towson location, and we are so excited to see the children.”
Open Door is one of Maryland’s leading providers of before and after school care. Limited openings for full day care are available at Open Door’s Towson location at 518 Virginia Avenue. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, please call 410.825.6300 and visit www.opendoorcare.com.
Note: All Open Door photography featured in this article taken prior to January 2020.