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The next step for young families during this pandemic

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

Bit by bit, with life starting to find its own level toward normality as we continually experience COVID-19 pandemic repercussions, some benchmarks are significant. One of the most noteworthy for young families happened this week: child-care centers began to reopen. What those who need the services of these centers, and those who may not but still value them as resources for area children and their parents, should know is that these reopenings are not a given.

When the state closed public schools on March 16, child-care centers were also part of those closures. The big difference between the two, of course, is that public schools receive the financial support of taxpayer money, while child-care centers, just as critically important for young children as schools are for their older counterparts, must function as chronically underfunded small businesses.

Some of the area centers were able to find financial support through creative means, whether through the government, foundation grants, online funding campaigns, or all three. Still, without money coming in for tuition from their customers, these centers, and all of them throughout the state, are at great financial risk.

And it’s not just the centers themselves that are struggling, but also their teachers and directors. They are not as well paid as public school teachers, nor do they have the same kinds of benefits. If their salaries had to be diminished or cut altogether, their households will have felt that blow instantly. It would not be surprising if some of these professionals, who need to have education and certificates beyond what their pay scale indicates, went on to find other work during the pandemic shutdown. That is a loss that would be hard to address, as the specific talents, skills and training required to care for young children are not easy to find or to duplicate.

It will be stressful for the staff at the centers as they try to ensure that their indoor and outdoor surfaces are sufficiently disinfected and the students are interacting safely while in their care. But they are accustomed to such good practices, and just need to extend them now to cover the COVID-19 restrictions and requirements, both according to the state and the young childhood education guidelines. 

If you know your town’s child-care center is trying to find a way to survive, please take this moment to support them, with money and with sincere encouragement. This is some of the hardest work there is, as young children go through many stages and their needs can change dramatically day to day as they grow. But the child-care professionals in the Northwest Corner are up to the task, giving families the benefit of safe, enthusiastic preschool education and care. We wish them all the best as they take on the next step, reopening to be there to support both parents and children. 

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