Earlier this month, the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department amended the Shelter-in-Place order to allow “childcare establishments, summer camps, schools, and other educational and recreational programs” to reopen, with restrictions, in order to provide care to children of families who are essential workers.
That new order went into effect on May 3.
Over this past week, childcare facilities have been opening up throughout Milpitas.
After the initial March 16 shelter-in-place order was put in place, Helen Qiu, who runs the Rainbow Childhood Development Center on Main St. in Milpitas, didn’t hesitate: She quickly planned for the transition of her in-person childcare to virtual classes, which launched on March 19.
Now she has re-opened her facility to accommodate essential worker families. She currently has 5 children back in her care, and is committed to following all guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so that she can ensure a safe and healthy environment for all.
“We started doing very detailed sanitation of all the toys, of all the classrooms and playground equipment,” said Qiu.
She also spoke of transitioning more activities outdoors, and drawing lines that are 6 feet apart for children to stand and sit on. She even purchased a new awning outside to accommodate children. Also, children’s temperatures are taken three times a day.
Meanwhile, instead of coming in to drop off their children, parents must say goodbye outside the gate.
“I have drop-off and pick-up rules,” said Qiu. “If one parent is picking up, and another pulls up, they have to wait in the car before they pick up the other one. I don’t sign out two children at the same time now…”
KinderCare, located on Abel Street in Milpitas, opened this past Monday.
“Everything’s going great. And we’re still enrolling,” said Fara Tehrany, the center’s Director.
Before the pandemic started, KinderCare was operating with 150 children enrolled and 25 teachers. Now they have 20 children, along with 8 teachers.
At present, the children are divided into 3 classrooms.
“We’re doing extra hand-washing and sanitizing throughout the day for kids and employees, and also sanitizing our classrooms and play structures,” said Tehrany. “Parents are not allowed in the building. And kids get their temperature taken twice a day, once when they arrive and then when they wake up from their nap. We’ve also extended sick leave from 24 hours to 48 hours.”
Deepti Pandey, who runs a family daycare in Milpitas, chose not to reopen during this time.
“I didn’t want to take chances,” said Pandey. “Even if I open it again, nobody would come. So there is no point in opening it now.”
Sunita Tejwani is the owner of Tender Heart Childcare and Pre-School, a home-based facility that is going into its 10th year of business. She used to work in the tech world, but she quit when she realized that she was passionate about caring for children. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she is committed to helping families navigate this tough time.
“What matters to me is helping families and the little ones. That’s what is important now,” said Tejwani.
She initially tried to open her daycare for essential worker families, but most of the families she works with don’t have essential workers. And so she decided to remain closed, and is now waiting for government officials to follow up about opening daycare for all families.
Tejwani runs a program that focuses on preparing children for kindergarten and pre-school. Since the outlook is uncertain as to whether or not children will be returning to school in the Fall, Tejwani is building a curriculum suitable for children that are also 5 years old.
“We all need to help each other now,” said Tejwani. “We need to be compassionate and understanding.”
As childcare facilities are given the green light to start serving families with nonessential workers, things still remain uncertain. Some who own childcare centers are worried about whether or not they’ll be able to retain their teachers during this time. A couple owners who spoke to The Beat mentioned that their teachers had gone on unemployment and were collecting the same amount of money they’d been making working full-time, which gives them little incentive to rush back to work. Feeling safe is another issue.
Before the pandemic, Qiu had a staff of 9 teachers at her center. Now she has 3 teachers back at work, but is unsure if the others will return. Two of the teachers have already told her that they are quitting their jobs.
“I asked them to come back after Memorial Day to keep their jobs, and they said they won’t come back and that they don’t feel safe enough,” said Qiu. “Also they are collecting money from the government, so they feel like, ‘Why do I need to come back?’”