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Day care centers close as enrollment dwindles

Day care centers aren’t included on Nevada’s list of nonessential businesses that had to close by noon Wednesday. But that doesn’t mean all of them would make it to Thursday.

Some area day care centers had closed, or were planning to close, by Wednesday because of declining enrollments over the past two weeks and concern over the potential spread of the coronavirus to children, families and teachers.

Among them was New Horizons Preschool, which shut down at 3 p.m. Wednesday. The program, which offers day care and preschool for children ages 6 weeks through 5 years, three weeks ago was seeing an enrollment of 70 to 80 children daily, said Arlene Ambriz, school director.

By Wednesday morning, enrollment had dropped to six children, she said.

In some cases, older siblings no longer attending classes after area schools were recessed because of the outbreak were able to care for their siblings at home, Ambriz said. In other cases, parents who were laid off or temporarily working at home were able to care for their kids.

In either case, many clients no longer had the need, or the income to pay, for day care.

Ambriz had 15 staff members, all of whom have been laid off. By Wednesday, staffing was down to four. Ambriz, while disappointed, said the numbers left no other option.

“At this point, it’s not even cost effective to keep the building open for six kids,” she said.

Bring ’em Young Academy also closed Wednesday, said owner Gloria Phillips, who said she closed the day care center primarily out of caution.

“Gov. (Steve) Sisolak, he was urging people (Tuesday) to stay at home,” she said. “I made the decision based on if everybody stays at home, nobody is going to need child care, and it wasn’t worth it, getting staff sick, getting other children sick.”

Enrollment there also had “decreased pretty much over the last week,” Phillips added. “Parents were concerned. Even the ones who were using it were concerned.”

Three weeks ago, the day care center had 132 children enrolled. Tuesday, there were 31. Now, she said, “within the next two weeks I’ll see what happens and take it from there.”

Phillips said she’s saddened that some of her clients — who include military families who continue to work — will be affected by the closure. But, she said, “we’re in this crisis and I had to make the best decision for everybody.”

Christ Kids Child Center, which is affiliated with Christ Lutheran Church, closed Tuesday morning. Director Marianna Phillips said some parents on Friday pulled their children out of school because they were concerned about the coronavirus.

Three weeks ago, the center was serving about 45 children, she said. Monday, “we had about five, and they dwindled down through the day to one.”

She said some parents expressed gratitude for the school’s concern. “It was a concern for their children’s health and safety, and that’s No. 1 for me.”

Meanwhile, University United Methodist Child Development Center remained open Wednesday with no plans to close its doors.

“We are going to remain open to provide service to families who need it,” said director Chelsie Shurtleff, although the center has seen a drop of more than half of its client families.

The decrease began Friday and continued Monday and Tuesday, she said. A week ago Tuesday, enrollment was 53 children, compared with 23 on Wednesday across age groups from infants to pre-kindergarten age.

The center’s parents include workers in health fields, trucking and other industries who haven’t experienced layoffs or job interruptions but who “still need a place for their kids,” Shurtleff said.

“Last week, I don’t think any of us could have seen this coming for the magnitude it has turned out to be,” Shurtleff said. “And it’s difficult for us. We’re a small nonprofit.”

Shurtleff plans to meet with employees to discuss the financial shortfall and said the center also has “reached out to some of the centers that have decided to close their doors.”

She’s also encouraged that a handful of parents who aren’t currently sending their children to day care have committed to continuing to pay tuition.

For centers that do remain open, tending to youngsters during the coronavirus outbreak poses hygienic challenges.

“We are upping our health and hygiene practices even more,” Shurtleff said, to include such measures as limiting the number of staff and children in a room at one time and practicing the 6-foot social distancing guideline.

But, Phillips notes: “How do you socially distance a 2-year-old? You have to get close to a child to wipe their nose or change their diaper.”

Parents are scared, she said, and so are teachers, in large part because of the uncertainty the outbreak has brought. Ambriz said that uncertainty extends to when, and if, her center can reopen.

For now, she said, “I think we’re just going to take it day by day “

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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