Just like airplane travel, workplace operations, and restaurant dining, the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the future of daycare as well.
When the COVID-19 crisis first began, the majority of schools and daycares around the country closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Now, as states push forward on reopening efforts and parents return to work, daycares must find a way to open their doors safely.
What exactly will the future of daycare look like in the era of COVID-19, and what should parents expect?
New CDC Guidelines for Daycare Centers
The CDC now encourages all childcare facilities to screen children upon arrival. Any child with a fever of 100.4 degrees or above should not be admitted inside. If it’s not practical for the daycare to physically take temperatures of all children, the CDC recommends these possible alternatives:
- Ask parents to take their child’s temperature before coming to the facility or upon arrival
- Make a visual inspection of each child for signs of illness, including flushed cheeks, rapid breathing, fatigue, or fussiness.
Above all, the CDC urges that social distancing and hygiene diligence remain the top priorities at daycares across the country. As a result, parents and students will likely experience significant changes to normal daycare routines upon reopening:
- Modified drop off and pick up procedures to maximize social distancing
- Face coverings when possible
- No special events such as festivals, holiday events, and performances
- Limited mixing of classes or groups
- Regular use of hand sanitizers
- Smaller student-teacher ratios
Nobody can predict how long these changes may last. But Jo Kirchner, CEO of Primrose Schools, a national chain of centers specializing in early education and childcare, believes daycare centers won’t be ready to lift COVID-19 precautions until a vaccine is developed.
More Parents Switch to Private Care
Even with the diligent precautions implemented by childcare facilities, many parents don’t feel comfortable sending their children back into close quarters with so many other people. This has led more parents to use online search hubs and neighborhood social media groups to find babysitters and nannies who can care for their children while abiding by social distancing rules.
Care.com, for example, now provides online resource guides to help families establish COVID-19 ground rules and expectations with caregivers. The online search platform now also offers a new “fever filter” to help families filter out caregivers with coronavirus symptoms.
“I encourage all parents to do their own small version of contact tracing with the care provider,” says Care.com CEO Tim Allen. “You can have a frank and open dialogue with that care provider to say, have you been exposed to anyone? Have you been around anyone? What has your environment been like in the last 72 hours? You can ask those direct questions, which you don’t have access to in your childcare.”
As the calendar inches closer to the beginning of another academic school year, daycare centers, preschools, and K-12 schools alike will continue to refine their COVID-19 safety responses, while parents and students adjust to a very new normal.