As more businesses reopen and more parents begin returning to work, child care facilities across the county are preparing to accommodate more children while attempting to maintain social distancing.
And that’s requiring some creativity.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced child care facilities could reopen under strict guidelines. In Galveston County, many centers have remained open during the spring to care for the children of essential workers.
The Children’s Coalition of Galveston already was practicing all the state-recommended guidelines for reopening while it cared for the children of essential workers the past two months, Director Kimberly Boyles said.
Normally, the center, 5127 Ave. U, has about 65 students but a month ago only was teaching 18, Boyles said.
This week, the center has about 31 students, she said.
Many parents already have made arrangements for child care through May and are waiting until the end of the month to make a change, Boyles said. “It looks like we’ll have more kids come June 1.”
Child care centers that reopen or start accepting more students must limit parent and volunteer entrance into the facility, screen adults and children entering the center and maintain limited group size based on age, among other requirements, according to state guidelines.
Children’s Coalition might have to start assigning drop-off and pick-up times to parents to avoid crowding, Boyles said.
The influx of more children into child care facilities means reinforcing use of masks and hand-washing even more, said Misty Dawsey, director of Excellence Academy Child Care & Learning Center, 2801 Main St. in Dickinson.
Fifty-five children were at the center Thursday, which is a normal number during the school year, when older children are in class, Dawsey said.
‘THE PHONE IS RINGING OFF THE HOOK’
“We are starting to get a lot more parent calls beyond the essential workers,” Dawsey said. “Parents just need care.”
Because the center is putting students into smaller groups, Dawsey is seeking to hire more teachers, she said.
She already needed more teachers per student than usual to enforce social distancing and keep up with all the extra cleaning and sanitization efforts, she said.
As the state allows the opening of more businesses, child care centers are experiencing a surge of calls.
“The phone is ringing off the hook as the state is slowly opening back up,” said Samantha Humphrey, owner and director of Just 4 Kids Daycare Center, 2818 Palmer Highway in Texas City.
The center, which was down to as few as eight children of essential workers during the past two months, is back up to normal capacity at 35 to 40 students, Humphrey said.
Children entering the facility are given a temperature check and are taken to a sanitizing table.
“We check their temperature in the afternoon as well, and everything is documented,” Humphrey said.
The center is putting children into groups of six and separating them, and their teachers, from other groups, she said.
Like other facilities, Just 4 Kids increased regular sanitization. The center even bought its own carpet-cleaning machine, rather than allowing a company to do it, to reduce the number of people entering the facility, she said.
“My new role here is I’m a sanitizing person,” Humphrey said.