Lauren Brown is spending the morning in a staff meeting working on how World of Wonders Child Care and Learning Center will reopen.
Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that daycare centers across Ohio, which were initially ordered to close March 26, could begin reopening May 31.
To ensure that these establishments operate in the safest manner possible, DeWine’s Early Childhood Advisory Council created a detailed list of guidelines and best practices for childcare centers.
The governor’s plan limits preschool- and school-age children to nine in a classroom and infants and toddlers to six per classroom. Temperatures will be taken daily, and employees must wear masks. Field trips are prohibited.
Brown said that World of Wonders applied for and was granted a pandemic permit which allowed the center to operate with restrictions, even during the crisis, “so we are already following all those so we are not worried about that.”
She said that when the center reopens June 1, the bigger concern will be the number of students. Brown said the new restrictions will mean rooms will be only one-third to one-quarter occupied. The reduced class size does not mean that some families won’t have spots for their children. DeWine said it is “certainly not our goal to have any family left out.”
Brown said she is going to be creative. DeWine’s orders allow for rooms to be split using six-foot, non-porous barriers. She said that while the rooms will be smaller, since there are more of them, “we should be able to get everyone in.”
As the county’s only pandemic certified child care center, World of Wonders has been open, though with “an extremely reduced ratio,” Brown said. She said that with the pandemic certification, the center could only take about one-third of its normal number of students. Additionally, the students had to be the children of essential workers. Brown said the parents had to bring in a note explaining why they were an essential worker. She said the center prioritized jobs so the center could help parents who were most needed by the community.
She said that due to the reduced numbers, some employees had to be let go, but were brought back quickly once the center was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. Brown said four employees chose not to return, but those positions have been filled.
DeWine said that to assist in the reopening of child care centers, the state will use more than $60 million in federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide reopening grants to all of Ohio’s childcare providers. The aid is expected to be used to cover costs associated with reducing class ratios and classroom sizes as well as of the increased cleaning.
Brown said she knows the governor talked about the grants but has not “really heard the details of that.”
She said the money needs to go to all day care centers. She said that in the past, often special grants have gone only for students who receive state funding. Brown said Marysville has very few state funded students and most are “private pay.”
“If the funding does not come to all centers, I don’t know how a lot of them are going to open,” Brown said.
DeWine also announced that Ohio will fund a research project to study best practices for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in child care settings. Information gathered from the study will continue to inform child care regulations moving forward.
According to the Ohio Association of Child Care Providers, day care centers employ about 60,000 child care providers and serve about 285,000 children statewide.
“Our goal is to have the safest child care system in the nation – one that nurtures the health and continued growth and development of our children and one that protects the health and safety of our child care workers and teachers,” DeWine said. “Moving forward, child care is going to look different for children, parents and teachers. But we must get this right, or we run the risk of exposing more people to COVID-19.”
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