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Daycares stay open during coronavirus to help families

Although colleges, universities and K-12 schools are closing or moving to virtual learning due to the threat of COVID-19, many daycares and N.C. Pre-K facilities are still open.

Directors are waiting to receive updated guidance from the state.

Fun-N-Learning Center, which has locations in Locust and Mount Pleasant, is temporarily closed.

“North Carolina has ordered all schools in the state to close for the next two weeks in order to limit the transmission of the coronavirus,” Fun-N-Learning posted on its website. “Fun-N-Learning will be closed during this time. We will be doing a deep cleaning on the facility in [preparation] for the return to a normal schedule. This situation is unprecedented. Our schedule in the days to come will be taking cues from the local school district. Our prayers go out to all of our students, families, and facility.”

Other facilities have remained open.

Kiddie Kare, which has two locations in Stanly, was open on Monday.

“I do feel like our parents do need us and we always try to be here for our parents,” Beth Mills, director of Kiddie Kare, said on Monday.

Mills said her facility will only close if it is mandated to by the state, if a child or their family member contracts the virus or if supply issues forced them to close.

“We want to be here for the parents if possible,” Mill said. “People say, ‘when it happens,’ not ‘if.’ I just hope it stops at some point and doesn’t get here.”

Mills said she and her staff always work to practice good hygiene, make sure the children wash their hands and keep the facility clean, but now they’re taking it more seriously than ever. The facilities have also asked parents to keep ill children at home. She was also considering buying a thermometer to further screen children.

The daycare has also communicated with its healthcare consultant, Melissa Jones with the Stanly and Cabarrus County health departments.

So far, she has been able to find most items the center needs, though Mills planned to look for bread as she couldn’t find any at Walmart on Monday morning.

Two students have stayed home either due to their own medical concerns or those of a family member, and Mills said she had no problem with those choices. She said Kiddie Kare is trying to offer support for families without causing more risk.

“We want to be here for the ones that do need us as long as we can,” Mills said.

Mills had 48 kids at Kiddie Kare on Monday, six of them NC Pre-K students.

Jana Lowder, director of Son-Shine Kids in Norwood, said her facility will remain open as long as possible.

Lowder said her facility is performing extra cleanings and will follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

Like Kiddie Kare, Son-Shine asked parents to keep any children displaying symptoms of illness at home.

Also similarly to Kiddie Kare, Lowder said the only item they’d seen a possible supply delay for was bread. Son-Shine places orders on Thursday and receives deliveries on Friday, and will know more then about supplies.

Lowder said her facility has not received any criticism for staying open.

“I think staying open now is pretty big, especially for school-age parents who are still having to go to work — being here to take those kids in,” Lowder said. “Everybody is still working, so we’re trying to stay open as long as possible.”

State Recommendations

Bonnie Aldridge, NC Pre-K coordinator with the Stanly County Partnership for Children, said she was waiting to hear further guidance regarding NC Pre-K facilities.

As far as she was aware, only one facility had closed.

“Some families are choosing to keep their children home, and that’s a choice that’s their prerogative,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge noted the unclear future.

“It’s a little crazy, I’m sure,” Aldridge said. “Many of them are having to keep after-school kids, as well, since school is out. It’s the first of many uncertain days ahead.”

In an email to Aldridge, Lorena R. Gonzalez, senior manager of the early education branch of NC Pre-K, EESLPD and Workforce Education, talked about the impact of the virus has varied throughout the state and that needs vary county to county.

“DCDEE has full trust of our NC Pre-K contractors and programs as experts in your respective counties to collaborate and make decisions that best meets the needs of the at risk children and families you serve,” Gonzalez said. “While there is no state policy on closures, we support the individual decisions of each program to either close or remain open. The majority of our NC Pre-K classrooms are in Public Schools, which have been mandated by the governor to close for the next two weeks. DCDEE respects each contractor’s and program’s decision as to whether or not they deem it necessary for their non-public, NC Pre-K classrooms to adhere to the same guidance.

NC Pre-K helps those whose income is at or below 75 percent of the state median income, or those above the income guidelines if they are children of certain military families,” or “if they have documented risk factors in specific categories including developmental disability,” according to NCHHS.

Many families depend on childcare to enable them to work. But social distancing recommendations have become increasingly — and rapidly — strict.

On Saturday, Gov. Roy Cooper banned any groups of more than 100.

On Sunday, the CDC recommended that gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled or postponed for at least the next eight weeks.

Then, on Monday, President Donald Trump encouraged people to avoid groups of more than 10 people.

While there was no state order to close daycares as of Monday evening, there is a possibility that will happen.

Entertaining children at home

Many organizations have published free online learning materials for parents to keep their children busy with at home.

Some places are offering online videos, such as the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s
offer of Home Safari Facebook Live videos at 3 p.m. each day, or children’s author Mo Willems’ online studio with the Kennedy Center, which will offer new episodes each day for free.

Sara Hahn, children and youth services librarian at the Stanly County Public Library, said that children need to stay engaged.

“During this unprecedented time of virtual classrooms and learning from home, it is vital that we keep information in the hands of our students so that literacy and learning do not fall victim to this pandemic situation,” Hahn said via email on Monday.

Here are a few resources that can help families offer virtual learning experiences while outside of the classroom:

• Sara Hahn, Children and Youth Services Librarian, Stanly County Public Library
704-986-3758, shahn@stanlycountylibrary.org

• NC Digital Kids (interactive ebooks, audiobooks, etc., which can be accessed with your SCPL library card number and PIN through the SCPL website or your app store): https://nckids.overdrive.com/

• Libby by Overdrive (ebooks, audio books, magazines, etc. which can be accessed with your SCPL library card number and PIN through the SCPL website or your app store): https://e-inc.overdrive.com/

• Story Line Online (Actors reading children’s books): https://www.storylineonline.net/about-us/

• Lakeshore Learning (Activity sheets, crafts, lesson plans):
https://www.lakeshorelearning.com/resources/free-resources?ref=hpS7FR6

• Time Magazine (Ideas for keeping your kids on schedule):
https://time.com/5803373/coronavirus-kids-at-home-activities/

• Jbrary Storytime Online (videos, podcasts, storytime resources for families):

Storytime Online Resources

• Youth Services Blog (Ideas for teens stuck inside):
http://yssevents.blogspot.com/2020/03/schools-closed-share-these-online.html

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News and Press.