Daycare centers offer services as more parents return to work

Brandon Paykamian • May 17, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Local daycare centers that closed their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic have recently reopened to help meet the demand for child care as more parents return to work. 

“We were closed for about six weeks, and then we opened May 4. We normally have between 60 and 70 children, but we only had 21 children here. Not all the parents needed to go back to work, and not all of them were comfortable sending their children back,” Mountain View Baptist Daycare Director Melissa Lombardo said Thursday.

“This week, we have gone back up to 31, and it seems like each week, we’re going to have a little more as more parents are required to go back to work.”

Mountain View has taken measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including temperature checks, social distancing at check-in and thorough cleaning. Lombardo said measures like these give parents peace of mind as they send their children back to daycare.

“We don’t have the parents walk through our center; they used to be able to go right into the classroom,” she said. “Now we have a table up front at the door, and we check the children’s temperature. The teachers also get their temperatures taken.”

She said she expects the center to be “back to full enrollment” by the summer.

“I’m sure it took a toll on a lot of our families when we closed,” she said. “Now that we’re open, they’re excited because they don’t have to figure out where to take their children.”

While some local daycare centers closed their doors, some stayed open to provide care for children of essential workers, like health care workers and those working in the food service industry.

Some parents were initially reluctant to send their children to daycare facilities, according to Mother Goose Day School Director Lisa Kerley.

“We have been open the entire time; we have not closed at all. Our enrollment dropped to about 50% in the beginning, and it’s actually kind of stayed that way. I’ve had about five kids come back the last two weeks, so we’re right at about half capacity right now,” she said.

Mother Goose typically takes care of about 55 children, but enrollment stood at between 20 and 25 as of Friday. Kerley said numbers will likely pick back up in August since many of the parents served by Mother Goose work in education. 

For others, Kerley said child care remains an important essential service. Kerley said her center is taking extra precautions similar to the ones at Mountain View to keep conditions safe and sanitary. 

“We’ve been as essential as anybody else in the midst of this crisis because we’ve been here every day taking care of children of people in the health care industry and people who don’t have families close by like they used to,” she said.

Kerley said she’s received inquiries from parents of children who attended centers that closed down. 

“I probably take three or four calls a day because we have had a waiting list for some time, even way before this,” she said. “We turn people away every day, and especially now that some people are kind of stuck.”

Small Steps Children’s Academy Director Christy Manning said precautions like temperature screenings and “lots of extra handwashing” have helped make parents more comfortable about sending their kids back to daycare. 

“Most of our kids are already back. We are licensed for 42. Right now, we have 38, so pretty much everybody’s been here,” she said. “There for a little while, we only had five to seven kids. The week before last, they started to come in.”

Though Small Steps initially closed for a few days in March when the pandemic first began to intensify, Manning said they realized the demand remained for many essential workers before Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced plans to gradually reopen the economy in April.

“If we don’t have child care, people can’t come back to work, so it made a huge difference when a lot of centers were closed,” she said. “It put a lot of burden on a lot of parents … We realized we need to be open for these parents.”

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