Daycares adapting to pandemic with SC DSS funding

VIDEO: Daycares adapting to pandemic with SC DSS funding

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - About forty percent of child care centers in South Carolina are still closed during this pandemic. One director said it would be much worse without grant money through the Department of Social Services helping keep their doors open.

Tricia Sheldon is a District Manager for La Petite Academy child care centers in South Carolina, where attendance is typically 100 kids a day. In March it dropped to 20 to 25 kids.

"It was important for us to stay open, though, to take care of first responders and essential workers," Sheldon said.

When kids arrive at their centers, staff is taking temperatures and washing hands. They are sanitizing toys several times a day.

Staff members are also wearing masks.

It's nearly impossible to completely social distance, Sheldon said, but they are keeping children in smaller groups. That will make contact tracing easier just in case.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s Dr. Valerie Scott said every extra cleaning helps.

“If one kid goes to daycare with sniffles and has COVID, then everybody else can get it,” Scott said.”So we all have to be super mindful about not going places when we’re sick and being careful with our kids in that way.”

Sheldon is thankful they haven't had any COVID cases in their ten centers so far.

The SC Department of Social Services said about 61% of licensed child centers are currently open.

"They've been wonderful," Sheldon said of the state agency. "They are the reason that many childcare centers are still open today."

Through CARES Act Federal funding, DSS offered up to $600 cleaning grants to child care centers. Now, they also have up to $15,000 Emergency Operations grants available to help centers stay open or reopen.

Plus, the ABC voucher program is still paying for lower-income children.

“Having that extra income continue to come in helped us stay open,” Sheldon said. “Especially when our numbers dwindled.” She says they’re now back to about 75% attendance.

Now she’s just waiting on school districts’ decisions so they can adjust again for the Fall.

“We are looking at setting up technology labs in each of our schools if there’s demand for it,” she said. “We also have some added curriculum for school-aged children, probably to second or third grade.”

For more information on which child care centers are open and closed in South Carolina click here.

“Child care centers are highly regulated and even more right now. We care about the kids and we’re here to keep the kids safe,” Sheldon said.

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