RI child care centers still facing pandemic-related problems

Business News

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Like many other businesses affected by the pandemic, daycare and childcare centers across the state tell 12 News they have felt the brunt of COVID-19 as well.

Kim Maine, a childcare advocate and owner of Sunshine Child Development Center in North Kingstown, said she has been in business for more than 30 years.

Maine said the changes to her childcare for kids, parents and staff have been plenty.

“Cleaning, curbside drop off and pick up, which means you have to have somebody up front all the time,” she said. “We have a runner similar to what the schools were doing, one person was greeting, bringing kids down, coming back up, so moving 140 kids in the morning and in the afternoon is not an easy task.”

Maine said problems presented from the pandemic include changes of job descriptions for staff and a lack of employees.

12 News also reached out to 10 other daycares across the state, and they all said they’re facing staffing shortages.

“People were actually earning more on unemployment then if they would have come back to work,” she added. “That was a struggle for me. To get my employees to come back, to focus on what they actually do for a living and this is longevity, that is not going to always be around,” she said.

Deb Vickers, education coordinator for Joyful Hearts Daycare in East Providence, said they also can’t find people to work.

“We have been advertising on Indeed and I’ll tell you one day I had 12 interviews set up,” she said. “One person showed up. I don’t know what’s going on, if everyone is still on unemployment.”

Maine said it’s a really an unfortunate circumstance.

“It’s an unfortunate circumstance where people look at us as glorified babysitters,” she added. “And don’t understand how our staff is out there in the trenches, we are dealing with all of these children, children who can’t be vaccinated.”

12 News asked the R.I. Department of Health if childcare centers will soon follow Rhode Island back-to-school guidelines, allow staff to remove their masks if vaccinated.

Joseph Wendelken, the spokesperson for the Department of Health, tells 12 News workers should continue to wear their masks.

“Fully vaccinated staff should continue to wear masks indoors when providing care to children,” Wendelken said. “Fully vaccinated staff may take their masks off indoors in areas where it is permitted, including staff breakrooms, personal offices, designated mask break areas.”

Childcare settings, healthcare settings and public transit are a few of the places where vaccinated people are still required to wear a mask.

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