SALISBURY, Md. – Gov. Larry Hogan and state leaders announced Wednesday that public schools will remain closed through April 24th. The longer schools are closed in Maryland, the longer some families will need help from daycare centers. State leaders urged daycare centers to remain open for people working on the front lines of the pandemic.
“We’re surviving. We’re trying to stay open for our essential personnel,” Christy Ennis, an administrator at Stepping Stones Learning Academy in Fruitland, says.
Many centers have upped their protocol to protect the children, families, and staff.
“Right now, we’ve asked parents not to come any further than our lobby. Students will be taken to their classrooms or called upfront on dismissal time,” Ennis says. “We are of course following OCC guidelines and Gov. Hogan’s suggestions of a nine to one ratio, so currently we don’t have any more than nine students per classroom.”
It’s a similar routine for Campus Corner in Salisbury.
“I don’t think people touch a light switch or a doorknob or a countertop where it isn’t wiped off,” Sherrill Williams, owner of Campus Corner, says. “We’re trying to do everything we can to limit possible exposure.”
Both centers say they’re asking kids to stay home if either they or their family members aren’t feeling well. All of these measures come as health officials are finding that children can carry and show symptoms of the virus. According to our sister station in Baltimore, an infant and a 5-year-old in Maryland have tested positive for COVID-19. Williams says the idea of children spreading the virus has been a concern from the start.
“One of the heavy things that weigh on me is do we stay open not just to meet the community needs but to be able to meet the needs of our employees,” Williams says. “But then you also have to think about the value of human life. Is it more important to close down for a couple of weeks give things time to settle? But on the same token, people need care for their children.”
The state says any essential personnel who needs help finding childcare services can call the state hotline at 1-877-261-0060. State leaders also announced Wednesday that they’ve been identifying spaces to use as childcare services for families of essential personnel, like YMCA’s and Boys and Girl Clubs. So far, the state says it has found childcare services for roughly 1,200 kids.
Many of the centers we spoke with urge parents to keep their kids at home if they aren’t working or don’t truly need childcare services.
“You want so badly to meet the needs of the community and of the essential personnel that are doing such a tremendous job for us,” Williams says.