By Stephanie Malench
“While many child care homes and centers have been open and providing emergency care to the children of essential workers during the COVID-19 public health crisis under an emergency license obtained through DCFS, the major- ity of licensed child care programs have been closed during Phases 1 and 2 of the Restore Illinois Plan.
Starting in Phase 3 and continuing through Phase 4, child care providers are encouraged to to reopen subject to guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health to serve the many families who will be returning to work.”
The above words, taken from the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Education sound prom- ising unless a person is a licensed childcare center or home operator.
During Phases 1 and 2 of the Stay at Home Order, the only child- care centers open for essential work- ers have been located in the northern part of Madison County (Alton, Godfrey, Bethalto, and Brighton). These facilities have not been able to bring in the various resources that the children might need, such as speech, ne motor, and gross motor
Patricia Dooley, Director/Owner of Bright Tomorrows Learning Cen- ter Inc. in Godfrey, said many of the new regulations will make opening up dificult. Many centers will not be able to bring back all of their children due to space limitations.
Everyone will be checked for symptoms and have temperatures
taken. Sleeping areas must be at least six feet apart and there must be 50 square feet (up from 35) of space for each child over the age of 2.
Shoes must be changed at the door or shoe covers put on. Dooley says shoe covers are currently not available, especially in smaller sizes and shoe sanitizers cost $5,000 each.
Children must remain in the same groups with the same staff. One staff member may oat be- tween two rooms if smocks/over- garments are changed between rooms.
Centers that were not open as emergency centers for essential employees, centers must start with only eight infants, and 10 children in other age groups for four weeks. All centers and homes must provide a reopening plan to Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) that includes operational and preparedness components.
After the four weeks, enrollment may increase to 12 toddlers, 12 two-year olds, and 15 children 3-5 years old.
In researching COVID-19 in childcare settings, Dooley found Texas is the only state with any posi- tive cases in their day care centers and homes. In the 11,094 licensed centers, only 25 teachers and 32 children tested positive for the virus.
At press time, the Children’s Home and Aid Society of Illinois (CHASI) had not returned a phone call to obtain a list of centers that have re-opened since the state went into Phase 3 of the Reopen Illinois Plan.