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Day care centers prepare for mandatory closure

Many local child care businesses and families are bracing for difficult times as day cares prepare to close indefinitely at the end of the week as a response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear called for all child care facilities to close by the end of business Friday, and has not offered a timeline for those centers to reopen.

Local day care owners, who serve hundreds of families, are feeling the stress of the situation.

The newly-opened Clark County Child Development Center on North Main Street will close at the end of business Friday.

Owner and Director Elizabeth Harris said her center serves 65 families, totaling 87 children.

“It’s hard on us from a business standpoint,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We just opened at the end of February, so even with some of the generous changes to unemployment, we worry some of our employees will not qualify for that type of assistance.”

Harris said her center will not charge families tuition during the closure.

“As of Monday, we told any family that wanted to take their child out of care during the time of this state of emergency that we would not charge them and we would hold their place at the center,” she said. “We won’t be billing accounts during the closure so that families have the finances to make ends meet.”

Two other local centers, The Early Learning Center (ELC) and Kids Discovery Center (KDC), will also close at the end of business Friday. The directors of those centers expressed similar concerns for their staff and families.

KDC, located on Bloomfield Road, serves 216 children and more than 100 local families. It is the largest center in Clark County, owner and Director Kristy Aldridge said.

“It’s a scary situation,” she said. “My employees are worried about how they’re going to pay their bills and the fear of the unknown.”

She said many of the parents of children who attend the center will have to continue working despite the many other closures in the community, and that will mean they will rely on other means of child care, whether that is family or in-home care.

“Some of them still have to work,” Aldridge said. “Some have jobs that aren’t as understanding or they just simply have to go to work, there’s no other option.”

She said the employees of her center are offering in-home care to some families, but there are state limitations about that type of situation, too.

“That’s something those employees are offering separate from KDC,” she said. “But it’s a way for them to continue to help our families.”

Brittin Diguette, owner and director of The Early Learning Center on Maryland Avenue, said she is seeing the stress among her center’s families.

“They’re worried about who will be able to watch their children,” she said. “It’s really those families that don’t have outside help or other family members to fall back on.”

She said day care staff from all around the community will try to help with child care, “but they can only take so many children.”

With the mandated closures, the centers will look for other ways to stay connected with their students and families.

“We are going to be recording our staff reading books and singing songs,” Diguette said. “We’ll spend Monday and Tuesday of next week doing that so we can post those online for our children and families to use.”

Diguette said she’ll also pull together references and materials for families to use during the shutdown.

“If there’s nothing else to do, we highly encourage our families to get outside and play,” she said. “They still need to continue to develop those gross motor skills.”

Aldridge said her center is taking a similar approach.

“We have a YouTube channel where we’ll be posting videos of activities and science experiments,” she said. “I live on a farm, so I’ll be recording some of that for my children to see and watch, too.”

She said she worries about many children when they can’t be at school or day care.

“Not just for the health part, but for their overall wellbeing,” she said. “When some children go home, their life is not good. There might be abuse. There might not be a lot of food in their house. It’s weighing very heavily on us.”

Aldridge said families could use this time as an opportunity to teach their children about compassion and giving back to the community. Her center sent pizzas to the staff at Clark Regional Medical Center earlier this week, because they know they’re busy in a time like this.

“Teach them about taking care of our neighbors,” she said.

For each center, the goal is to remain connected despite the shutdown.

“Our teachers are here for families,” Harris said. “They can talk to our staff if they need help. We’ve also asked them to make arrangements with us if they need food during the shutdown. We’re hoping this will be a very minimum closure. We hope to get back to normal as soon as possible.”

Diguette said that will be key.

“If there are issues at home, they can call and we will help them resolve it,” she said. “We don’t want to totally leave these parents with no help.”

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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