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Childcare facilities adapt to life with COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced business at childcare facilities and dramatically changed the routines for the children who attend them.

Before children can enter her daycare in the mornings, Linda Fraychineaud has to go to each family’s car and take everyone’s temperature in the vehicle and document it. If someone’s temperature is 100.4 or higher, they cannot enter the building. Parents have to fill out a questionnaire, letting the daycare know if they’ve traveled in the last 14 days to states or countries with high rates of COVID-19, and whether they have come in contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19. If any of the answers are yes, the child cannot come in the building.

The process is tedious, but required by the state, said Fraychineaud. Kid’s Korner offers childcare for children from 6 months to 5-years-old. She said that at first children were confused by the change in routine due to the pandemic.

Instead of parents walking them to their classrooms, a childcare worker brings them inside the building. Sometimes there are exceptions, like the other day when a little girl scraped her knee in the parking lot and her mother was allowed to come in with staff to bandage the wound, said Fraychineaud.

Children’s hands are sanitized at the door and hand washing is frequent. Hands and arms are washed up to the elbow. Toys are sanitized and then sanitized again while children nap. The number of children allowed in a room has been reduced. Teachers stay separated, but social distancing for small children is not really possible, said Fraychineaud.

At a local tutoring business, First Step Learning Lab, children are being taught to stay in their personal bubbles in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, said owner Wanda Worley.

“If somebody comes into your bubble you raise your hand or say ‘bubble alert, bubble alert,’” said Worley. “So if you make it fun it’s easier to help them understand it a little better.”

One of the students made up a song about hand washing that has caught on. All the kids sing it when they go to wash their hands, said Worley.

Although many people are still going out to work, others are working from home or have lost jobs in the wake of the pandemic.

That fact has drastically cut business at Kid’s Korner, from having 110 kids to 45, said Fraychineaud.

“I’m just trying to serve the families and my staff,” said Fraychineaud. “I am concerned about the economic impact this will have on the families, as well as us.”

Typically, when parents pull their kids out of daycare for a week, they still have to pay for the service, said Fraychineaud. With the pandemic and parents facing potential layoffs, Frachineaud is not charging clients who had to withdraw their child. She is also planning to hold the spots for those children who withdraw until things have settled down again.

“What I say to them is ‘I’m not going to take a new child over children that have been here before,’” she said.

First Step Learning Lab normally offers afterschool programs, but has expanded hours to accommodate parents who need childcare during school hours. Worley is offering a 30 percent discount for childcare and free one-on-one tutoring sessions for children of emergency workers, like police officers, doctors and nurses. She’s also making the computers in her back office, which is closed off from the rest of the building, available for any kids who need computer access to complete academic work.

Along with economic concerns, getting supplies has also been a challenge for the daycare, said Fraychineaud. When she goes to the store, she has to speak to a manager to get permission to purchase 12 loaves of bread and ten gallons of milk for the children’s lunches, she said. The daycare had trouble finding hand sanitizer and thermometers, but appreciative parents donated them.