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From the frontlines: Pandemic childcare employees

Graphic created by Dylan Collison

Any operating childcare facility must be registered as a temporary pandemic childcare center as of March 26. This order was given by Governor Mike DeWine and will tentatively be lifted on April 30.

Many area centers chose to apply to be pandemic centers, while others made the choice to close their doors for the month.

Precious Ones Learning Center has been granted the temporary license, in which ratios were cut to a fraction of what they were previously.

Ratios have been cut to 1:6 for all age groups, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

Director Cara Rigsbee is taking all the necessary precautions to keep her families and staff safe at this time.

Not business as usual

The facility operates from their normal hours of 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. On-site staff has the option of two different shifts, whether they would prefer to open or close.

Rigsbee has asked the staff that has a spouse or other family member that is currently working to stay home if possible. This would allow those who more heavily rely on the income to continue working.

“Our program is a non-profit religious ministry and therefore our workers are not eligible for unemployment,” said Rigsbee.

Precious Ones has welcomed new children and staff during this time due to other centers closing.

Children of essential workers are the only ones authorized to attend pandemic centers at this time.

“This switch to pandemic care has been a stressful one full of rule changes,” said Rigsbee. “The Governor and his staff are making policy changes as fast as they can, but the policy changes only help or cover half of the community. There are many gray areas that are not covered or not thought out well enough to help all people.”

The center usually serves 125 students per week during the school year and around 50-75 per week during the summer.

“Currently, with my pandemic license, I am serving anywhere from 12-18 kids per day depending on the days of the week parents are required to work,” said Rigsbee.

Parents are required to make reservations the week prior to them needing care so that Rigsbee can plan accordingly.

“We have kept a large portion of our staff, including administration, off-site in the event one of our staff members becomes sick so we can bring a new rotation of staff in to replace the sick staff,” said Rigsbee.

Essential workers that are currently utilizing the pandemic center care include:

  • Military personnel
  • Physicians
  • Medical receptionists and managers
  • Frozen food industry
  • Banking
  • Nursing
  • Trucking
  • Auto supplies

‘The days are running into each other’

The staff is taking the time to sanitize classrooms in the middles and ends of each day. Parents are prohibited to go beyond the entry and any church staff or members have been prevented from entering the facility at this time.

“The days are running into each other. We operate on yesterday, today and tomorrow,” said Rigsbee.

Brittany Long is a teacher at Precious Ones and makes a point to wash her hands and sanitize everything possible and keep outside interaction to essential errands only.

“I love the kids, but honestly, the paycheck is what is driving me to come to work. I cannot afford to not work,” said Long. “The lower numbers are nice. More time for one-on-one interactions with the kids and the kids in my room are a pretty chill bunch.”

Teacher Kaylee Fugate is relieved to be able to work at this time.

“Honestly just having a job that I can still go to on a daily basis and seeing the kids every day is what drives me to come to work,” she said. “The atmosphere is definitely quieter than usual since we can only have six kids, but it’s a lot of fun to focus more on 6 kids and give them more attention and easier to do small group activities with them.”

Fugate is taking steps to keep herself safe by constant hand washing and sanitizing, as well as changing her clothing as soon as she gets home to be washed. Rigsbee has taken similar steps to help stop the spread of germs.

“When I arrive home, I take off my clothing and shoes and wash them in the washing machine,” said Rigsbee. “I do not do anything at home until I have taken a shower and changed into a new set of clothing.”

The next steps for childcare centers are unknown at this time as President Donald Trump and Gov. DeWine discuss the upcoming re-opening of businesses.

Marissa Couch

Former News Editor