Mask-wearing, social distancing and strict hygiene measures are difficult enough with adults, but what happens when childcare operations are required to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols?
Creekside Kids Academy and Peek Program Executive Director Brandy Rasmussen says the big challenge with COVID-19 is keeping up with the changes in safety protocols. The mask order applies to children aged two and older, which she says is very difficult to enforce.
“Everything tends to change regularly so we’re keeping track of what we need to be doing, making sure that that doesn’t conflict with our licensing rules, which a lot of them do,” Rasmussen said. “And then, really just trying to make sure that we’ve got inclusivity in the classroom so that we can make sure that everybody can follow the same rules and the same protocol.”
Rasmussen says they have teachers and children who can’t wear masks for different reasons and it’s confusing for young children to understand. They have ordered face shields for the children and teachers and hope to use them instead of masks. They have not arrived yet and she isn’t sure how they’ll fit and if it will provide a safer barrier to the virus spreading.
“The reason we did the shields was really to help with kids being able to have access to eating and drinking throughout the day regularly, as they need it,” Rasmussen said. “Keeping the teachers from having to handle masks, keeping the children from swapping masks or touching each other’s mask or putting them on inside out and you know, there’s a lot of technically, biohazard materials that we’re not treating in that way. There’s a lot of risk in that.”
PC Tots Founder and Chair Carol Loomis says they’re opening this week because parents are desperate for child care with so many families returning to work.
“So, we made the difficult decision to open,” Loomis said. “It has cost us about $25,000 in mitigation for the virus on requirements because one of our buildings had quite open classrooms and we’ve had to build 6-foot walls between some of the classrooms and we’ve added MERV 13 filters to the HVAC. We’ve put in tower fans in every room. We have to make sure the screens and windows open well so that we can get a lot of airflow. Now the county has the mask provision for children two through five.”
Loomis says there is a broader discussion in the childcare industry about masks causing trauma for young children. Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough says there is no directive at the time of this report and County Council will discuss the issue concerning possible amendments during this week’s public meeting. In keeping with best practices, they’ll do health assessments and temperature checks on teachers and children daily.
“We certainly don’t want to be spreading virus and yet we’ve got our parents [who] are out in the community and they’re servicing our community members,” Loomis said. “No parents will be coming into the center. They will drop their children at the door. They will have health checks to see if they have any of these symptoms of the virus. There will also be temperature checks of the parent and the child.”
Currently PC Tots can accommodate just 35% of the normal attendance. Many families are faced with one parent having to leave their job to care for children. She says the state is offering grants to help pay for some of the losses due to COVID-19. They have received financial assistance from Park City, Summit County, and the Christian Center of Park City.
Rasmussen says her business has received initial support from the county with PPE supplies, but requirements continue to change.
“They did a $5,000 grant that we could apply for to help pay for the cost of some of the PPE, cleaning things, some of the changes that they had required,” Rasmussen said. “But that was early on and then they made quite a few changes since then that have required similar costs and I haven’t seen anything outside of that first initial $5,000 from the county.”
Rasmussen says they are at about 70% attendance of the pre-COVID-19 enrollment numbers.