Child care centers stay open despite coronavirus public health emergency
FARMINGTON – As many businesses curtail their regular operations, some service workers find their hours cut — or their jobs gone altogether — due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But businesses with workers deemed essential, like grocery store clerks, health care workers and, now, those who work at child care facilities, have been asked to not only stay open but to expand their operations.
“We are needed,” said Barbara Tedrow, the owner of Gold Star Academy, which operates a series of child care facilities in Farmington for children aged six weeks to 12 years old, “I truly believe that the governor and the cabinet secretaries have taken a stance on child care workers. Without us, the economy would spiral.”
State moves to help out
In a series of temporary directives in response to the coronavirus public health emergency, Early Childhood Education and Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky announced that both ECECD and the Children, Youth, and Families Department would:
♦ temporarily enable family, friends, and neighbors to deliver paid child care services after they passed a background check and completed a three-hour online health and safety and CPR training course.
♦ waive co-pays for child care for parents receiving childcare assistance.
♦ provide full-time child care assistance to families of first responders and health care providers.
Licensed child care providers who stay open to support working parents will also receive a $250 “differential” per child enrolled in child care assistance from the state during the public health emergency.
The state Department of Public Safety is also stepping up background checks so that child care centers can hire new, temporary staff, for the time being who are able to pass a background check and take an online health and safety and CPR course.
To find child care facilities with openings, parents are being asked to call the state’s child care Resource and Referral line at 1-800-691-9067 or log on to www.NewMexicoKids.org to find a list of child care sites available in your area.
Families of first responders and health care workers in need of child care are being asked to call 1-833-551-0518.
People interested in becoming temporary child care providers can also call 1-833-551-0518.
Once an enrollment form is completed, and the child's immunization records are presented, children should be able to begin attending a child care facility on the same day.
“If you have the flexibility to stay home with your child, we encourage you to do so. If you need child care, we are doing everything in our power to ensure that you have access to healthy and safe care,” Groginsky said in a statement, “New Mexico is fortunate to have child care providers who are stepping up to support families and we are here to support them.”
Changes made to meet needs
Tedrow, who is the chair of the state’s Early Learning Advisory Council, said to meet the possible demands of child care needs in Farmington she’s closed two of her facilities that were meant for just preschool aged children, and has now opened them up for children of all ages that she serves. Tedrow said Gold Star Academy would also expand its hours to 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays, and leave open the possibility of having weekend hours, depending on the needs of families.
Tedrow estimates that she can accommodate approximately 88 more children, who will be separated in classrooms of eight students per classroom to attempt to practice social distancing.
Tedrow also said her facility would provide free breakfast and lunch to children, which she felt is especially important as many parents are being let go from jobs now.
“A lot of the calls I get in the morning are about meals,” Tedrow said.
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Parents of children up to the age of 18 can also receive free, to-go bagged meals for their children from a number of Farmington Municipal Schools, the Aztec Municipal School District, Bloomfield School District and Central Consolidated School District sites on weekdays during the public school closures.
Andrea Turman, assistant director and manager at Casa Montessori Preschool in Farmington, said she has room for about 15 to 20 more children, specifically for children of first responders, which includes service workers and grocery store workers as well as health care and other public safety workers.
Like many childcare facilities contacted, Casa Montessori will not allow parents into the facility. Instead, parents will be asked to drop their children off at the door of the facility when they arrive in the beginning of the day and wait for their children to exit at the end of the day.
Multiple facilities contacted also said they would check children’s temperatures at the start of the day.
Turman said her staff will also wash toys the children play with throughout the day.
“Of course, we’re a small business too,” Turman said, “We’re worried about what’s going to happen to us right now too. But we feel like we have to stay open for the community, and I guess worry about that later. We’re just trying to be one of the small pieces of the community that solves this together.”
Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-333-5283 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.