Amanda Popp

Contributing Writer

Many daycares in the area were forced to close when the coronavirus began in March. They finally began the process of reopening in May, as restrictions lessened.

D’Lynn Smith, owner of Acres of Play childcare center in Charlotte, says she opened her doors back up on May 18, after the state offered a childcare grant for all licensed childcare providers to access.

“With the grant I must give my families a 10% discount on tuition, which is beneficial to families,” she said. “The only downfall is it ended up taking six to eight weeks to receive the grant.”

Smith says the childcare center has increased outdoor time and tries to do most of their activities outside, rather than indoors.

“We spend most of the day outside,” she said. “The children have two acres of land to run around and play in, and there’s no more than three or four kids in a group playing outside.”

Other health precautions Smith says the childcare is taking include temperature checks upon arrival, regular hand washing, limiting the number of children daily and utilizing the free lunch and breakfast program from the school rather than making home-cooked meals.

“Before if a child had a temperature, they had to be fever free without medication for 24 hours,” she said. “Now we are required to have them be fever free without medication for 72 hours before returning to the center.”

During quarantine, Smith says she still found a way to stay in touch with her children, by reading to them virtually. The children even delivered books to her house so she could read them their favorite ones before bedtime.

“I read to the children almost three to four times a week during quarantine, live on our private Facebook group. It was wonderful.”

Laura Newland, supervisor of Weymouth Child Development Center in Charlotte, says the daycare has slowly reopened its doors.

“We closed on March 23 when the stay home order was put in place,” Newland said. “We reopened on May 4 for essential workers’ children.

“As restrictions were taken away and different industries opened, we have had more and more of our families return to childcare.”

She said children are slowly returning because of restrictions being lifted.

“We are back up to about 23 capacity on our numbers, with many more coming back in July,” Newland said. “It’s all a waiting process for executive orders to be lifted, allowing parents to return to their workplace.”

Newland said some of the new restrictions the daycare has followed to ensure the children’s safety is limiting foot traffic into the building, requiring temperature checks and completion of the Barry Eaton Health Department health-screening questionnaire for everyone that enters the building, increasing hand washing and outdoor time, requiring staff to wear masks and increasing sanitation procedures.

“We do not allow parents or visitors to come into the building, to limit foot traffic,” she said.

Newland says the daycare center is still learning how to navigate opening back up during this time and continues to provide staff with more training, including a 90-minute webinar on working with children in a group setting amid COVID 19.

“We have been working with child care directors in Charlotte and from across the state to help each other navigate the waters with interpretation of COVID-19 operation regulations and recommendations,” Newland said.