ALBEMARLE — Despite a recent statewide policy requiring child care centers to close unless they became certified emergency child care providers, 26 out of 34 Stanly County facilities remain open under the new provision.
This is in stark contrast to the rest of North Carolina.
State education officials estimated on March 18 that only 1,500 out of 4,500 daycares remained open — and that was before the latest guidelines for April went into effect.
“Our facilities are trying to serve the children of essential workers because they know they’re important and needed,” said Tammy Albertson, executive director of the Stanly County Partnership for Children.
Albertson told SCJ that among the eight Stanly facilities that have closed are two Head Start programs, an elementary school-based center, and two private facilities that transferred their workers to sister sites.
On March 25, the Division of Child Development and Early Education from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued an updated policy stating that child care programs wishing to remain open in April needed to be approved as emergency providers by March 31.
That certification required an accepted COVID-19 Emergency Child Care Provider Application, a form that addressed the health, screening, safety and operational requirements of emergency child care services.
This is in conjunction with Gov. Roy Cooper’s March 27 executive order requiring North Carolinians to stay at home for 30 days with limited exceptions, which include child care as an essential human service operation.
“It actually is impacting us because we have employees where child care is shut down,” Stanly County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff James told SCJ. “So even with our own employees, child care is definitely an issue with keeping kids at home.”
State health officials have decided to back down from a proposed requirement for child care facilities to take in children of emergency and health care workers as a condition of staying open. The centers still have the options of whether to stay open to provide care to the children of front-line health care workers or close to protect themselves and their staff.
The DCDEE has also decided to provide bonus payments to all full-time child care employees for the months of April and May; providers will receive an extra $300 per month for all teaching staff and an extra $200 per month for all non-teaching staff.
The policy states that child care programs must pay their staff pro-rated amounts of the monthly bonus payment at regular pay periods. In addition, programs have the option to present additional bonuses to staff using their own funding.
On April 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the Offices of Child Care and Head Start, released an updated Supplemental Guide for Child Care. The guidance document contains the CDC’s recommendations for child pick up and drop off procedures as well as the cleaning and disinfecting of toys and bedding.
The N.C. DHHS has also created a hotline — 1-888-600-1685 — to link parents with open providers in their local areas.