Things have been a little different at Discovery Gardens Child Care since the coronavirus outbreak hit.
Smaller class sizes. Temperatures taken and recorded for everybody — from kids to parents to guests — who stops by. And much more hand-washing, sanitizing and cleaning.
Also different: There are fewer kids around.
Director Ariella Thomas said the center, 4930 E. Bonanza Road, served about 100 kids daily before the outbreak. On Monday, there were 18.
Some of the decline probably is due to parents staying home or working at home or who, because of job loss or interruption, can’t afford day care right now. But Thomas also suspects that when Clark County schools closed, some parents assumed that day care centers had closed, too.
That’s not necessarily true. While some centers have closed over the past three weeks, others remain open, and the state of Nevada is doing what it can to make day care a continuing option, particularly for parents who work in essential industries.
Elisa Cafferata, deputy administrator at the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, said state officials began to look at child care in Nevada in early March “to make sure there was an avenue for child care to stay open so workers who do essential work … could still go to work.”
Child care facilities are designated as an essential service in Gov. Steve Sisolak’s March 17 order closing nonessential businesses. But, Cafferata said, “sometimes the subtleties were lost … I think a lot of folks assumed child care also was closed, which is not true.”
Emergency child care operations
Since then, the state has created a process to expedite the creation of emergency child care operations. It also is encouraging child care centers to create “emergency child care slots” and is giving licensed providers flexibility in, for example, the ages of children they serve.
“The other thing we’ve been doing is we have been calling licensed child care providers to find out what they need” — down to such basics as hand sanitizer and supplies — “so we’re trying to find ways to address those issues,” Cafferata said.
Two weeks ago, the YMCA of Southern Nevada announced a plan to serve children of first responders by creating a day care program at its Bill and Lilllie Heinrich facility on Meadows Lane. However, Mike Lubbe, president and CEO, said the program has been canceled, at least for now, because it drew only a handful of kids.
“It was one of those things that was well-intended and a good idea, but there was not a community need yet,” Lubbe said.
“We got a lot of interest but not a lot of takers. So we’re just going to press the pause button here.”
Thomas said most of the parents who take their children to Discovery Gardens do work in essential businesses. She’s now working to let other parents who work in such fields know that, even now, day care remains available.
“We’ve always been very proactive, because we’re here to assist essential workers,” she said.