Local child care facilities work to manage COVID-19 this summer, prepare for the upcoming school year
FRISCO — Most child care centers have been open since the beginning of June and are doing well with the new precautions, said Lucinda Burns, executive director of Early Childhood Options. Burns said that children are complying with mask rules easily and the centers have not had any outbreaks of COVID-19 so far.
Child care centers in Summit County were given the green light to reopen in May, but many Summit County centers held off until June in order to plan for compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
Enrollment started slowly, Burns said, but as parents return to work and become more comfortable with the child care setting, families are gradually returning to the child care facilities they utilized before the onset of the pandemic. Programs are now allowed to operate with as many children as they are licensed for rather than being restricted to groups of 10, which has opened up enrollment slots.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation conducted a survey in June that found that almost half of working parents are now working remotely, 75% of working parents have children staying at home with a parent during work hours and 60% of parents will need to change their current child care arrangement within the next year. Due to COVID-19, two-thirds of parents have changed their child care arrangement.
As children or teachers with any potential symptoms are asked to quarantine, even with a negative test result, Burns said one of the hard parts of running day care centers right now is sending people home.
“It’s been a little bit challenging for the child care programs to have to send children home or staff home if they have potential symptoms of COVID … so that’s led to some absences both of staff and students and too many staff absences, we just don’t have enough substitute coverage,” Burns said.
Burns noted that since June, about four classrooms have had to close for approximately two weeks due to symptomatic teachers. She said Summit County Public Health officials have provided guidance for when teachers or students need to be excluded from the centers as well as other day-to-day health and safety protocols.
Aside from quarantining symptomatic individuals, changes in child care centers largely revolve around sanitation. Soft toys are generally not allowed as they can’t be cleaned as easily. Classroom cleaning in compliance with protocols is mostly done by teachers and classrooms are cleaned at the end of the day, and sometimes in the middle of the day as well, which Burns said is very labor intensive and has had an impact on staff.
As the school year begins, Burns anticipates some changes. There may be some closures within child care centers and schools. Therefore, families, employers and employees must be supported. Burns said she will work to support Early Childhood Options employees as their children will be home from school, doing remote learning on certain days. She expects other employers will also have to be flexible.
While the amount of children that can be in a classroom has increased, Burns said the centers still have long waitlists, though the lists still aren’t quite as long as they were before the pandemic. She added that she is concerned about families who haven’t been able to get their children back into child care and that some programs are not enrolling new families.
Ellen Reid, executive director of Keystone Science School, said that the school is working with other program providers, community leaders, Summit County representatives and school district partners in a collective to coordinate child care this fall, particularly for school-age children.
Reid said that there is a demand for child care right now that probably can’t be met in ways the community has usually approached the demand for child care. She said the group is working to find solutions for child care’s greatest barriers — staff and space — and is looking at spaces that aren’t currently being used, such as meeting spaces.
“This is really in an effort not only in a hybrid model to provide that support but we also know that, even if it’s a hybrid model, that some families are opting to go remote-only and they will need some enrichment activities or time when they’re not trying to coach their kids in whatever academics they’re doing,” Reid said.
Reid said that the collective is also trying to prepare for the potential of a fully remote learning environment.
Keystone Science School offered their traditional summer camp this year, but with 30 campers separated in groups of 10 while normally, the camp accommodates over 100 campers. So far, there have been no COVID-19 outbreaks or classroom closures at the school.
The school is offering fall programming for children grades K-12 to supplement the classroom with full week or full day programs and is working to find a two- to three-hour option for secondary learners in middle school or high school who may need extra academic support. The school is working to fundraise scholarship money to support local families; information can be found at KeystoneScienceSchool.org.
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