Daycares across the Tri-Town work to reopen

Jun 18, 2020

There’s no such thing as a standard pandemic experience for a daycare. Some daycares in the Tri-Town have been able to stay open to care for the children of essential workers, while others have had to close completely. But all now face the same process and challenges in reopening. 

Countryside Childcare in Marion reopened the first day that daycares opened for essential personnel. The Rochester location opened about three weeks ago. Owner Bonnie Morrison said that she hopes to open to all of her children by the end of June. 

Melissa DeSousa of Little People’s College said that if she had known that the closure would be 13 weeks long she would have applied with the state to provide daycare for emergency personnel. But at the time, she did not know. 

Instead she has tried to stay in touch with her families through Zoom sessions, where she said the kids get so excited to see their friends and teachers, and by dropping off activity bags at homes. 

Still, she said that it was “devastating,” and “very challenging” to close. 

Kristina Bacchiocchi who runs A Happy, Healthy Start also found closing heartwrenching. 

“It happened so fast that I didn’t know that I had to say goodbye to some of the kids,” she said, adding that “when you’ve seen them every day from 8 to 5... they are my family, and it is the same thing as missing my mom and sister.” 

Because of this strong attachment, Bacchiocchi said she “could not ever not come back and serve” her kids, in part because “these children have been through a lot also,” and she wants to be the familiar face when she can reopen. 

All three daycares will have to submit plans to the state on how they plan to meet a stringent set of requirements, and have those plans approved before they can reopen. 

For DeSousa, planning that she and her staff did before the closure on identifying frequently touched spots, not allowing families inside when they drop off kids and what to do if a child or staff member tests positive will help her to meet many of the state’s requirements.  

All three providers are finding ways to adapt to other requirements recently released from the state. 

To deal with the smaller recommended group size, and keep groups separate Morrison said that the childcare facility will be splitting the room in half. 

Bacchiocchi said that she has always thought that she had more square footage than she needed, and was able to use the time when they were closed to do “major renovations,” in anticipation of opening. 

All three childcare facilities plan to spend more time outside, where the risk of transmission is less. 

For Little People’s College, this time will give a new “safety team” time to go in and clean the building. 

Morrison said that she has always done a lot of cleaning, but will make an effort to do more on door and sink handles. 

“We’ve always had really stringent policies,” on cleaning, Bacchiocchi said. So she will only have to add a few steps. And, she added, at daycares more so than some other places “hand washing was cool even before all this.” 

The state initially released strict guidelines on toys to try to keep things clean. But, as Bacchiocchi sees it, daycare participants have always weighed the risks of sickness against the reward of social interaction at a critical period in childrens’ development. She will apply that same framework to toys, and may be able to figure out new ways to play, such as mirroring across the table. 

Bacchiocchi also feels grateful that parents and care providers pushed back on some of the state’s demands that seemed unreasonable. 

DeSousa also had some creative ideas, like having kids make their own play dough and keep it separate from other childrens’. 

All three providers say that the decision of whether children will wear masks will be up to parents. But, for the children that do wear masks, DeSousa said her teachers will work with them to teach them how to properly wear them, just as they would any other skill.