Childcare Centers To Reopen May 31 Under New Strict COVID-19 Guidelines< < Back to
ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Childcare centers in Ohio can reopen for business starting May 31, after shutting down due to COVID-19 in mid March. Among the new state guidelines for reopening are strict sanitizing measures, temperature controls, and a drastic reduction on the number of children per class.
The new COVID-19 guidelines put new caps on how many children and teachers can be in a class. The ratio of caregiver-kids per class has been cut almost in half.
Lee Anne Cornyn, Director of Children’s Initiatives at the Office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, in a virtual press meeting said, “The maximum capacity we are setting up in any one classroom is one teacher to nine kids. And then we have lower ratios to our younger children.”
Other measures under the new guidelines include: temperature checks for adults and kids when entering the center; washing their hands at the beginning and at the end of the day; constant sanitizing and disinfectant of the areas and toys; playgrounds used only by one class at the time; and not mixing classes, among others.
The new rules will have some centers barely keeping up with the costs and others choosing not to open until the guidelines change again.
Going Through Stages
Heather Thompson, owner of Stages Early Learning Center, says it has been the first time since she opened up, 13 years ago, that she had to shut down her facility.
Even so, it was not an easy decision to reopen under the new guidelines.
“For me, personally, I made the choice to open my doors even though I know no matter which choice I made, I’m not meeting my budget.”
Right before the spring break she had 96 children enrolled and 31 staff members. Now, when she reopens June 1st, she will only have some 34 kids and 14 staff.
Thompson says that she’s been able to pay rent and utilities thanks to the federal Payroll Protection Program loan.
She has been able to keep her staff because they got unemployment and CARES Act benefits.
“Last week I started inviting staff members to come in at separate times to slowly start prepping.”
As the new guidelines mandate, they have removed soft toys, stuffed animals, pillows and cushions, wooden blocks and other toys that are harder to disinfect in a daily basis.
She has asked parents if they can help with a voluntary cleaning fee since her budget for sanitizing has increased significantly. She has bought infrared thermometers for each classroom and won’t be requiring masks for the kids unless their parents prefer them.
As for social distancing with the children, Thompson underscores that with the infants it is not possible, “Babies need help to eat, to feel love and secure, they need help when they’re crying, they need be picked up and diapers need be changed.” Same with the toddlers, whom she says are just beginning to learn how to share and sometimes that means “pulling and grabbing and that’s part of their development. So, we have to step in to provide those measures helping them work through those life skills.”
For the older kids social distancing is easier to manage. Thompson says they will have play stations with limited capacity.
Summer Childcare at the Community Center
The Athens Community Center’s child care program has been closed during the pandemic, but unlike other centers they will not reopen on Jun 1, 2020.
Instead, they will resume operations from July 6 to August 14 offering their summer camp program for kids 6 to 12 years-old. While their pre-school program will resume in the fall.
“It’s going to look quite different summer camp this year. We’ll have curbside drop-off, temperature check will be taken outside and the kids will be escorted directly to their rooms,” says Laura Sowers, children & families program specialist for the Athens Community Center.
“We have four rooms that are just for day camp, no cross-contamination with the public coming in and out of the community center.”
The pool won’t be open this summer and all field trips are canceled. Children will not intermingle with other groups as they have done in the past. Now they will stay with their counselor all day.
“Luckily for us, about 70% of the time we are outside anyway and our games and activities this year will have to promote social distancing.”
The center will set up additional hand-washing stations to maintain hygiene, according to Sowers.
Right before the pandemic shutdown they had capped about 50% of their weekly summer enrollment.
“Knowing the state guidelines now for school age children, which is a 9 to 1 ratio, we will be having about 36 kids per week. We can have 36 new possible kids every week. We have some spots that haven’t been filled yet for summer camp.”
The center has created a lottery system to determine who will be allowed to attend each week. Parents will enroll to have their child’s name drawn to fill the open spots. “I want to make it fair and equal so that all families have a chance to get in the camp and us to provide childcare for them,” says Sowers.
Under the new restricted state guidelines the program will reopen with seven staff where they used to have 12 or 13. “During the pandemic I restructured my budget. At a 1 (staff) to 6 (children) ratio we break even. With 1 to 9 we might bring a little bit of a profit; but working for the public, working for the city, a break even is a win in parks and recreation.”
Sowers also says that sanitation has added extra weight on the budget. But help may come soon for both publicly-funded and private childcare centers.
Kara Bertke-Wente, from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS), said in a virtual press meeting that the state will “grant allocation of approximately 60 million dollars in the next few days or weeks to support providers during these times of the reduced ratios and for the increase in sanitation.” She added that while there is no final date for the new guidelines, they will be evaluating the situation closely and informing on any updates.
To access the complete official mandatory new guidelines, as well as the recommended best practices for child care centers and day care centers, click here.
To access the full Coronavirus Pandemic Child Care Information for providers from the ODJFS, click here.