RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Childcare concerns continue as more parents prepare to possibly head back to work.
As Virginia gets ready to enter “phase 1” of reopening Friday, Governor Ralph Northam said childcare facilities will remain a priority.
“Some childcare centers have stayed open, prioritizing children of working families. That will continue in phase one, ” Northam said during his May 8 press conference.
However, a potentially problematic restriction remains in place. As a precaution, Northam said Virginia will continue to limit gatherings to 10 people.
10 On Your Side reported some childcare providers are worried this will leave parents headed back to work in phase 1 scrambling to find care for their kids.
Now an advocacy agency is getting involved.
The Virginia Child Care Association (VCCA) sent the Governor a letter asking to increase group sizes for child care facilities to 15.
The letter says in part:
“With more workers returning to work in the coming weeks, we expect to see rising demand for safe, affordable child-care. Currently, child-care facilities are limited to 10 per group, including the teacher. VCCA and its members are asking that the group size be increased to 15, including the teacher. This very small increase in numbers will help us better meet the needs of child-care beyond just that of families with essential workers. Such an opportunity enables working families of all professions to have access to the licensed, safe care provided by private child-care businesses, while also helping to rebuild the financial strength of these critical, often-small companies.”
Kim Hulcher, the VCCA Executive Director tells WAVY.com if Governor Northam allows 5 more people in every room, daycare’s will continue to follow CDC guidelines.
“We do expect the parents to slowly go back to work beginning next week. We do expect it to be a slow process but that will help us meet the needs of our workforce. The parents that are in the workforce, to be able to go back to work and have a safe, dependable childcare that they can rely on…We feel like if we can increase even slightly at this point that we can handle most of the demand. 10 is pretty limiting, but most of our providers felt like 15, they could make that work for a little while until things loosed up at bit more,” said Hulcher.
Courtney A.S. Pharr, the owner of Creative World School in Chesapeake believes the VCCA’s proposal is a good compromise.
“As some non-essential families are going back to work, we’d be able to help about 30 more families, 30 more students anyway, with that little bit shift on the dial. We’re still not maxed out in our classrooms, social distancing, hand washing, we’re wearing masks at our school. Putting everything in place, can still happen successfully, but also allow a little more flexibility for families,” Pharr said.
Right now, Pharr can not accept any more children. Her school is full with about 60 kids, under the governors group size limitations.
As non-essential workers go back to work, she expects phones to continue to ring off the hook with families searching for a spot for their child.
Last week 10 On Your Side reported that some of the Goddard Schools in Hampton Roads must also turn away parents, including military members.
Anne Pope, the owner, said they are at max capacity with 60 kids, as they follow Northam’s 10-person rule.
“We’re still having to tell parents that they can not bring their students back to school yet because of class size restrictions. As far as we know, that is until June 10 because we have not gotten any direction,” she said.
Pope feels childcare providers are not represented Commonwealth’s COVID-19 business task force. She believes there needs to be a voice for childcare industries.
“It’s really important that he has someone from the childcare industry. At least come and be a apart of those meetings. So, that they can hear some of the restrictions that are making it very difficult for people to go back to work,” explained Pope.
10 On Your Side will continue to reach out to the governor’s office for answers.