Anja May is the director of the Chilmark Preschool. When the state shut down the schools the preschool was also closed. But that didn’t mean Ms. May was ready to sit on the sidelines.

“I thought, what will the essential workers do with their children?” she said. “How will doctors and nurses go to work with their kids at home?”

Ms. May applied to the state as part of the Emergency Exempt Childcare Provision and became licensed to offer childcare seven days a week, 12 hours a day if necessary to emergency and essential workers. She and lead teacher Pia Gunderson can accommodate children 2.9 years old to 13 years old.

The licensing took a bit of time but was relatively straightforward, she said. “As a preschool teacher you do everything so we were already trained.”

“The town of Chilmark was super supportive,” she added.

But it is stressful, she admitted.

“Children are high frequency transmitters. We keep kids from the same families together but for kids from different families we are creatively arranging the room, moving tables far away from each other so the kids gravitate to different spots. And we spend a lot of time outside.”

It can be hard on the young children, she said. “So much of how they receive signals of approval comes from body language and how they interact but now they have to stay apart.”

To accommodate the growing need, Ms. May said Heather Quinn, who leads the Early Childhood Programs at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, has recently opened up another site on the Vineyard. For more information, visit or

“So many essential workers would rather be home with their kids but they don’t have a choice,” Ms. May said. “It’s the least we can do as a community to help support them.”

— Bill Eville