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Despite State Rules, North County Day Care Adopts 'Mask Choice' Approach

Exterior of Children's Paradise Preschool and Infant Center in Oceanside. August  17, 2021.
Tania Thorne
Exterior of Children's Paradise Preschool and Infant Center in Oceanside. August 17, 2021.

Children’s Paradise Preschool and Infant Centers has five locations throughout North County.

The centers offer day care and before and after school programs for children ages six weeks to 12 years old.

Despite State Rules, North County Daycare Adopts ‘Mask Choice’ Approach
Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.

Last week, the owner Julie Lowen sent out an email to parents and staff with an update on mask rules.

"Children's Paradise strives to remain a neutral party in the debates swirling around COVID-19 including masking, and for the reasons stated below, has chosen to adopt a 'Parent-Choice' 'Staff-Choice' approach in determining how we will engage further masking," the email said.

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Marissa DeLuca's children were at Children's Paradise in Oceanside when she got the email.

"I was disturbed enough to pull them out of the day care the same day. That day that I got the email ended up being their last day in care," she said.

Lowen declined an interview with KPBS but sent a statement that said her child care centers are prioritizing personal rights for children and their parents.

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"Pursuant to these rights, Children's Paradise cannot force a child to wear a mask, or even wearing shoes, if a child refuses or the parent directs the child not to wear a mask or shoes. We respect the rights of all children and parents to determine the practices they will engage and those which they will not," she said.

The center’s masking approach violates the state's child care licensing rules.

"California child care guidance requires all individuals who are two years of age and older to wear face coverings," a state spokesman said. "Licensees and providers whose failure to comply with an infection control practice results in a serious or immediate risk or threat to the health or safety of people in care, administrative action may be taken."

The spokesman said day cares failing to enforce masks could be fined or lose their licenses.

VIDEO: Despite State Rules, North County Day Care Adopts ‘Mask Choice’ Approach

Despite the licensing rules, DeLuca was surprised at how many facilities were not enforcing masks as she looked for a new day care.

"I thought it was strange to find places that were not enforcing it when it's a requirement. Their license is on the line," she said. "I would imagine that there would be some kind of liability if, let's say, a child caught (COVID-19) at a negligent child care center and god forbid lost their life. I mean, if that was my child, I would hold that place liable."

Cheryl Farmer, the director of Mini Miracles Academy in Oceanside, said mask enforcement isn't the easiest task when dealing with young kids.

"They take them off. They pull them down. They don't keep them on their face. We have maybe one or two that does keep them on their face for the whole day," Farmer said.

She said parents also ignore the mask enforcement letters she sends home.

"It's a struggle to get parents to send masks with their children when they come in the morning," Farmer said. "I've sent out notices saying that I would like them to wear masks and some come with it and some don't."

She said the center will start getting stricter in enforcing the use of masks among the kids.