Child care centers in Ohio will be able to reopen on May 31, with stricter enrollment guidelines. They have been closed since March 26 due to the spread of the coronavirus.
New rules announced by Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday will limit the number of children in each room. Infants and toddlers can have six children per room, while the cap for older children is nine.
Jamie Bathchelder, director of Radiant Kids Childcare in Dublin, says the smaller class sizes will hurt her bottom line.
“It’ll actually mean we will need more staff, but it means we won’t be making very much money,” Batchelder says. “And depending, we’ll have to use more classrooms, mostly likely.”
Batchelder says under old rules, her center could have up to 12 pre-K children in a classroom and up to 18 school-age children in a classroom. Now she says she will only be able to care for half that number.
Radiant Kids has operated for the past few weeks under a "temporary pandemic" license to care for the children of frontline workers. During that period, the number of kids attending dropped from 270 to 55.
“I think it’s going to be a bit of an issue for a lot of centers, the ratios being so much lower,” Batchelder says. “I think we will make it work, but I think there’s going to be a lot (of daycares) that it is not financially sustainable to have that much lower ratios.”
During his press conference Thursday, DeWine said he’s taking a cautious approach.
“We want to have the safest child-care system in the nation,” DeWine says. “It will look different... we must get this right or we run the risk of exposing more individuals to COVID-19.”
Batchelder says that money from the federal Payment Protection Program helped her maintain her staff of 40, but that runs out at the end of the month.
DeWine said he realized that daycares could face financial problems under the new rules, so Ohio will use $60 million in federal CARES Act money to subsidize the centers for three months.
When the centers reopen later this month, temperatures will be taken daily, and parents may not be able to walk their kids to their rooms. The state is also stressing that handwashing should be done repeatedly, and all staff members will be required to wear facial masks.
That news caught Batchelder by surprise.
“After a month and a half of not being required to have our staff wear masks, they’re changing that it sounds like, and that seems kind of crazy to me,” Batchelder says. “To all day be in a mask when you’re trying to talk to kids and keep their attention and all of that.”