PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — When it comes to beating COVID-19 at her daycare center, Maureen Baumgarten said she’s not taking any chances.
“We do sanitize daily, we do use heavy-duty sanitation that is friendly and all-natural every day. So I think that and procedures in place cut down on a lot of that,” said Baumgarten, owner, and director of Everyday Discoveries Preschool and Daycare.
According to a January 11 Axios/Ipsos poll, one in six parents reported experiencing a daycare or school shutdown in the past few weeks.
Baumgarten said its incredibly important to stick to guidelines set forth by Illinois Department of Public Health. That means fewer seats at tables, children spread out six feet apart during playtime and naptime, and of course washing hands and wearing masks.
Baumgarten said they haven’t had close calls at all. In the past few weeks, just one toddler was isolated, and one class had to quarantine for an asymptomatic three-year-old. She said the guidelines for children under five are different from older kids.
“That is one thing that has affected us… People have to understand it’s because their immunity is not built up yet. They don’t have all their vaccinations, and they could be carriers, so there’s a lot of unknown right now,” she said.
And its not just COVID-19 impacting daycares. Myah’s Learning Center in Peoria had to close a location because of staffing shortages.
“The downtown location struggled because of the fact we could not find qualified teachers … The people are just not wanting to come into the field anymore, and that’s a big issue,” said Lynne Costic, who recently sold Myah’s to her daughter-in-law on Dec. 31.
She said combining her staff into one location helped, but it doesn’t solve the problem long-term
“With the closing of the downtown center, it eased the teacher shortage at this particular location,” she said. “There’s a waiting list of people wanting to get their children in, but we did not have the number of staff needed in order to bring those children in because of the ratios that are designated through Department of Children and Family Services’ licensing.”
Baumgarten added she lucked out with her teachers, who’ve shown more than a decade of loyalty, but staffing shortages were a problem even before the pandemic.
“It has been difficult to hire teachers that are specifically trained in early childhood,” she said.