‘Families really need us’: Day care centers still open stay vigilant about cleaning, small groups

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 22, 2020

SALISBURY — While schools are closed, a number of day care centers in Rowan say they’re open and staying vigilant about cleaning and keeping children in small groups.

Directors at St. John’s Lutheran, Partners in Learning, Cornerstone and Kiddieland Kindergarten all say they want to be there for parents in need.

“We are staying open unless they tell us to close,” says Norma Honeycutt, executive director of Partners in Learning. “We are open because our families really need us to work.”

Honeycutt says Parters in Learning had 50% fewer children last week, but is still charging everyone in order to have operating funds. The day care has a hardship form that parents who are out of work can fill out. Workers have set an alert every hour to wipe off door handles. Staff is holding meetings through the remote conferencing service Zoom, and kids are kept in separate classrooms, even if the class has only two students. teachers stay in their rooms, too.

At St. John’s Lutheran Church child care center, workers are seeing normal attendance, although the pre-K and kindergarten are closed on the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control.

Lelonna Richardson, program coordinator for St. John’s Child Development Center, said, “We still have kids and a full staff. We’re moving right along. We have to keep going for the families.”

Everything at St. John’s is regularly cleaned with bleach anyway, and now they are doing it more often. Toys go in the dishwasher daily.

“What they say to do, we already do,” Richardson said. “Now we do it more often.”

Parents are calling to say how grateful they are that the center is open. One older staff member has chosen not to work during the coronavirus scare.

Cornerstone Child Development Centers has five sites around the county. Michelle Macon, executive director, says they are busier than usual.

“We have a very important duty to people who work in the medical field, police and the like,” Macon said. “We need to be here for them.”

Through the five centers, Cornerstone serves about 350 children, from 6 weeks to 12 years old.

Macon is hoping to get the go-ahead to offer what is usually a summer program for school-age children right now, if they can get the teachers and funds together.

Because Cornerstone is a private business, they have been able to continue their pre-K program sponsored by Smart Start Rowan.

And they are working hard on being clean. When the children go outside to play, they clean inside.

“We sanitize even more through the day than usual and parents use hand sanitizer or wash their hands before coming in,” Macon said.

Kiddieland Kindergarten, on Long Street at the border of East Spencer and Salisbury, was closed Monday for deep cleaning, said Timika Peterson, director. The business speaks with a consultant every day to see if they’re following best practices and if they have sufficient food “so we can all get what we need.”

Kiddieland has been in business since 1967, she said, and it has a staff member who is already looking for ways to save money “to make sure we can take care of students and staff. … We’ve never had to prepare for anything like this.”

Peterson, too, emphasized that parents need the center while they work and their children need care. They are licensed for 197 children and have 176 daily, typically, but they are seeing fewer children, most likely because some parents have to stay home.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, children at Kiddieland learned songs to help them wash their hands for the required time. So, they’ve got a head start on the guidance being given now by health care officials. Teachers are checking the temperature of every child who walks through the door every day.

“If they have a little fever, we ask the moms to take them home,” Peterson said.

Richardson, at St. John’s, says, “We have had some cautious parents. We are trying to stay in good spirits and do our regular routines as much as we can.” They are “even more cautious and trying to do what is best for the community, families, children and staff.”

Honeycutt says at Partners in Learning someone cleans every night; teachers do regular cleaning, too.

“We have always had strict sanitation,” Honeycutt said.

They take the kids outside as much as they can, then children go straight back to their assigned rooms, Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt said she wants to be able to pay staff if they do have to shut down and is doing everything she can to find a way to do that.

“This is a wake up call,” she said. “We’re hoping for the best and planning for the worst, and that’s what a good leader should do.”

First United Methodist’s day care has closed because it follows the Rowan-Salisbury School System schedule.