The Covid-19 Pandemic
Another front in the war on COVID-19 – child care centers
A Baltimore day care center hopes to be allowed to re-open Monday and, fortified with disinfectant and strict rules, to do so safely
Above: Bettina High wipes down B. Angels Christian Early Learning Center. (Fern Shen)
Bettina and Ronald High were wiping down the child care center they operate in Baltimore’s Waverly neighborhood today, hoping for good news.
All child care providers have been ordered by the State of Maryland to shut down by the close of business today as part of COVID-19 precautions, but officials are allowing them to re-open Monday as long as they meet special requirements and serve only children of “essential personnel.”
The couple has asked for state approval to re-open their B. Angels’ Christian Early Learning Center. “We turned in all the paperwork,” Ron High said, and thinks they have a good chance to qualify.
[UPDATE 3/31/20: Mr. High reports they reopened and are back in business, “no complaints.”]
“All our kids, their families are essential,” he continued, speaking from behind his check-in desk and a reporter standing behind a red “STOP” sign just inside the door.
How does he think the state defines “essential”?
“Anybody allowed to go to work,” High said.
Scrambling to Find Slots
First responders, front-line medical care providers and others got a boost Tuesday when the YMCA of Central Maryland announced that it would provide child care for those who qualify under state guidelines.
Officials there said 700 slots were being made available.
On Wednesday, State School Superintendent Karen Salmon ordered most child care centers to close by the end of the week.
Excused from the order were state-funded facilities that had already been approved recently to provide care for the children of health care workers and others regarded as essential during the coronavirus outbreak.
Salmon said there are 1,200 such slots statewide.
For private child care facilities to re-open, state officials said, they would have to meet a number of requirements:
• Serve only children of essential personnel.
• Apply with regional licensing specialists for approval.
• Conduct a thorough cleaning before reopening.
• Keep children an appropriate distance from each other.
• Hold classes with a ratio of one teacher for every nine children or fewer.
At B. Angels, which the couple has operated since 2009, most of the parents work in hospitals or other health care facilities, Ron said.
Other parents, he said, work in supermarkets, convenience stores or in restaurants serving carryout food that are still allowed to operate.
“It’s been a little confusing. It seems like child care part of this was the last to be figured out,” Bettina High said. “We’re hoping to get the word any time now that we’ve been approved.”
In the meantime, the Highs said they will continue to ensure all the public health rules are followed at their center, which has a maximum capacity of 64 children.
Hand sanitizer was prominent at the sign-in table.
A sign on the door warned parents not to bring children who are coughing, sneezing, have a runny nose or a fever into the building. Adults with those symptoms are told to stay away as well.
“And, of course,” Bettina High said, hoisting her disinfectant sprayer, “we’re cleaning every inch of the place.”
FOR MORE CHILD CARE INFORMATION:
Parents and caregivers who are essential personnel looking for child care may call these numbers at the State Department of Education:
410-767-7823, 410-767-0583, 410-767-7798, 410-767-7805.
They can also visit: earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org