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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego Day Cares Set To Reopen Despite Confusing Rules

 May 28, 2020 at 10:14 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Last week, San Diego County leaders gave restaurants and retail stores the official go ahead to reopen, which means more people are going back to work, but what happens to those who need to put their kids in daycare? KPBS reporter Claire Traeger, sir says many daycares are trying to reopen, but they continue to struggle with amaze of confusing and sometimes conflicting regulations. Speaker 2: 00:22 Plenty of times where I had to be like, I'm sorry, and you know, mute you guys. Mommy is on a phone call. Please here have a snack, can be like five minutes. Speaker 3: 00:32 Brandy Levitt is a single mom who works for a chain of local restaurants including Ragland public house in ocean beach. While the restaurants were closed to dining customers, she was home with her two daughters, but now that they've opened up, she needs to be back at work. People are going to have to, Speaker 2: 00:49 I don't know, hopefully families will be able to start helping each other again, like grandparents and Speaker 3: 00:56 crazy times. Luckily, her daughter's preschool just reopened with restrictions. Classes are limited to six kids. It's one of many new regulations. Daycares are trying to get a handle on KPBS asked several daycare providers if they fully understand the reopening rules as no, Denise Vick runs the children's growing center in mission Valley. I think I'm clear. Okay. Speaker 2: 01:23 But um, things are changing obviously week to week. Um, it's really hard to navigate through all this information. And I watched the County briefings when they were daily. Now it's three times a week, watch that. Or I check the licensing website, a state website, the County website. I'm just trying to Speaker 3: 01:48 follow all the rules, but sometimes the rules change within days. For example, at first the County said daycare providers could expand classes from 10 kids to 12. Then the message changed. Most classes had to stay at 10. Vick found out about that from a KPBS story. I think some people Speaker 2: 02:08 well are at 12 because they thought they were allowed to do that and are kind of panicking. Speaker 3: 02:12 Then there are other rules. Vic says she needs to make up on her own. Speaker 2: 02:17 Even my sick policy, I just sort of decided how I was going to keep, how long I was going to cheat people out. Um, cause it's vague. Um, the guidelines are vague. It just says a hunt, you know, a hundred degree fever or respiratory but doesn't talk about what, what, how when they can come back. Speaker 3: 02:38 Vic says every week there's a conference call with more than 200 daycare providers and health officials and it's clear there's a lot of confusion. She feels like daycare is not a priority for elected officials. Speaker 2: 02:51 Every day I'm reading stories that we need childcare to reopen our economy to get these parents back to work. But um, I don't know. There seems to be a breakdown somewhere. Speaker 3: 03:05 Of course it's complicated. Health officials want to put strict limitations on daycares because small kids don't do a good job controlling disease, washing hands, and following social distancing rules. The worry is that kids could pass the disease between each other and then carry it back home with them. But daycare is also can't have so many rules that it makes it too difficult for them to reopen. People are driving in restaurants now. Holly Weber owns magic hours preschool in Mira Mesa. She says, if government officials are allowing restaurants to open, they should let daycares expand to slightly bigger classes of 12 kids. Speaker 2: 03:44 Many of us are equipped and capable of being able to implement small, intimate, yeah. Speaker 4: 03:50 Grip sizes under various stringent sanitation procedures and protocols for, um, Speaker 2: 03:57 you know, for safety. I know I can do that. And the County restricting me from being able to do so is frustrating. Speaker 3: 04:04 A County spokeswoman did confirm there have been no covert 19 outbreaks at the daycares that stayed open throughout the pandemic. Speaker 4: 04:12 Yeah. As we're expanding opportunities for businesses to reopen up, we should be expanding the facility as well too. Speaker 3: 04:20 San Diego city Councilman Chris Cate is one government official who has a vested interest in daycare's reopening. He has two young kids, including a daughter who's in a home daycare. Before the pandemic, there were potentially twice as many children who needed daycare as available daycare spots in the County. According to a survey from the YFCA, the shortage is now far worse and threatens the overall opening of the local economy. Speaker 4: 04:48 Now that's waitstaff and servers. Right. And that your president, you're gonna need and they're gonna if they have kids, they're gonna need daycare, you know, are able to go now to their childcare facility and, and, and place for kid in there. Or are they going to have to wait, you know, and, and does that mean that they have to pass on the shifts and it give it to the next person? You know, there's this domino effect to some of these decisions where, you know, I want, I'm more than anybody want to see businesses open up. But you know, there, there, there also needs to be those conversations. Speaker 3: 05:25 He says, County and state officials need a clearer message and quickly, Speaker 4: 05:30 if anything else is, is going to be needed really rather quickly in the next, in the coming days and weeks is, uh, as we sort of act on some of these things, um, and expanding businesses, uh, sooner rather than later. Speaker 3: 05:46 Claire Trek Asser KPBS news. And joining me now to follow up on Claire's report is Alyssia [inaudible], executive director of first five San Diego, an organization that supports parents Speaker 1: 05:58 and caregivers helping children during their first years of life. Aletha welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. How are daycare providers actually changing their spaces to help kids keep kids healthy? Speaker 4: 06:11 So at this time we're understanding providers are implementing, um, increased, uh, regulations around health and safety. And so, you know, that that begins with receiving the children when they arrive in care, you know, having to do temperature checks, having to ensure that children and their staff, uh, wash their hands upon entry, um, and also frequently, uh, washing their hands and high-touch areas being frequently disinfected and cleaned throughout the day. And so the limitation in group size also has been another modification for providers and understanding that each group can only have 10 children in a licensed daycare provider site. And so they've had to modify their physical space and understand how to separate that space to potentially serve more than just one group of 10 children. And really the technical aspects of modifying a space and ensuring that each space, uh, which is considered a classroom has, um, the materials and supplies that are needed for each group that must maintain a stable over time. Meaning they cannot be commingled. Speaker 1: 07:18 There's no way though to impose social distancing or masks for really young kids. So what do you do? Speaker 4: 07:24 And that's a great point. Our local public health order that has been published, um, does indicate under item number five that children, um, you know, under this age of 12, we are not required to wear, uh, the face coverings while in childcare or daycare nor are the staff. Um, I understand them some providers that have opted for the adults to wear the face coverings. However, we understood that for our youngest children, especially those that are, you know, two to five, you know, we're going to have some challenges, especially with the social distance. And the beautiful thing is that there is guidance and to the providers, uh, best possible effort and them really, really trying to determine on an individual or case by case basis what will work for their space. Because not every provider is the same. Speaker 1: 08:15 Now, as Claire mentioned in her report, daycare was not always easy to access or affordable before the pandemic. Now what's it like finding daycare in San Diego? Speaker 4: 08:26 Well, as you can imagine with restrictions and group sizes of 10 or less, it does exacerbate that that access point for families, um, and providers certainly are really faced with the reality of their, their revenue generation. They were, they could have served 24 children in a preschool classroom for children three to five. Now they can only serve 10 at this present time. Um, and so that, that does present challenges. But for families, um, what we're looking at is a tremendous investment that came forward with the County of San Diego board of supervisors as well as the city of San Diego appropriating a $10 million, uh, towards emergency childcare vouchers for families throughout San Diego County. So that is going to help lift up the workforce, um, and also assist the providers with, uh, being matched with families who could pay for that care. And we understand that families have different needs. And so the different hours, a different number of days are going to also, uh, play a role in the number of vouchers that will be generated throughout our County. Speaker 1: 09:32 If childcare isn't readily accessible, how do you think that's going to affect the entire reopening process? Speaker 4: 09:40 Well, that's definitely a very popular conversation right now. And you know, we were talking about reopening the economy and supporting the economy. Um, not only here locally, uh, at our state but at a national level. And uh, those of us who've been in the child care space for many years understand that the reopening of the economy can not occur without the conversation of how children are going to be cared for. Uh, families are being affected. And I mentioned children 12 and under earlier because schools, elementary schools have shut down in the traditional sense and the reopening still is yet to be determined. And so we're working also with our County office of education and other stakeholders across the state to really advocate and prioritize the conversation and ensuring that our children that need care have care on a daily basis. As is identified, Speaker 1: 10:30 as you mentioned, kids have been home for a while now. What should parents be doing to try to get their kids ready to reenter a daycare environment Speaker 4: 10:40 that is really important. And we talk about how, how important to transition, uh, is for young children, especially those that are under the age of let's say, nine years of age. It's pretty drastic when you're potentially selecting a new provider, an adult and individuals and other children that they have not met in the, in the past. And so it's important for the youngest ones to be able to meet the individuals in person. Um, we have virtual capacities. You can do a virtual, get to know each other in the beginning and then when they meet them in person that would not, not feel as, um, distant to the young children. And as they get a little older, it's important, you know, for parents to have conversations with their children about what to expect. Speaker 1: 11:22 I've been speaking with Aletha Argall as executive director of first five San Diego Alafia thank you very much. Speaker 4: 11:31 Thank you so much for having me.

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As more people return to work, many day cares are trying to reopen., But they are struggling with a maze of confusing and sometimes conflicting regulations on how to operate during the pandemic.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments