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Directive for day cares in Southwest Florida, statewide remains up in the air

It’s a big question among parents: Will day cares be the next to shut down because of coronavirus in Southwest Florida? Is it safe to send them there?

“For me, day cares should have been probably the first thing to shut down,” Naples mom Lindsey Taylor said.

Taylor says she is already keeping her 13-month-old with medical conditions at home to prevent him from getting the virus. She is now jobless, but she says she is paying for her child to go to school even though he is not there.

“My choice would be either to continue paying tuition or have a re-enrollment fee,” Taylor said. “It just seems unfair to have to pay to put them back in his day care when I’ve already paid to put them there.”

Taylor hasn’t un-enrolled her son because, if she does, she could lose the tuition help she receives from the Early Learning Coalition for the future.

“If one of the jobs I applied for calls me tomorrow and then I no longer have the assistance and can’t afford full tuition,” Taylor said.

The day care Taylor sends her son to told WINK News over the phone it’s working with parents on a case-by-case basis and doesn’t know whether it will be waiving re-enrollment fees.

Day cares all over Southwest Florida have different policies. WINK News found some are offering parents to pull their kids out, without having to pay tuition or a re-enrollment fee. Others are asking parents to keep paying.

Nicole Perez, a mother of three, is a nurse choosing to keep her four-year-old home from day care in case she gets exposed while treating sick patients. She says she doesn’t want to put any other children or staff members at the child care center at risk.

“Because we directly care for the sick patients that are, whether or not they’re positive for [COVID-19],” Perez said.

But her daycare is staying open and maintaining its two-week cancellation policy, so to keep her child’s spot she says she has to keep paying.

“I think that it should be optional withdrawal, with no repercussions,” Perez said.

WINK News spoke with the director over the phone, she said she is working with parents individually but parents who want to save their kids’ spot will have to continue paying. She later wrote in an email:

“As an established and reputable child care facility, we are working with all our families during this difficult time. The majority of our families/parents value and cherish our service. They want to ensure their children have their spot at our school when they’re ready to return. Other parents that wish to withdraw their children must abide by the center’s 2-week notice policy.”

When asked about day cares in a press conference Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that he doesn’t think shutting down day cares would be easy, citing the fact that essential workers are still in need of childcare during the pandemic.

“I don’t think it’s as easy as just saying, shut all this down and things are just gonna work out,” DeSantis said. “There will be reactions that happen and there’s going to be some parents who really have a central job, who may be in a situation where they can’t go.”

DeSantis said he is looking into what other states are doing in regards to child care centers.

Dr. Elizabeth Elliott, a professor of early childhood education at FGCU, explains that already under-funded childcare centers are trying to stay afloat.

“They are trying to maintain a status by asking families to pay,” Elliott said. “It’s sort of a two-edge sword. If you don’t have a job, you can’t pay for childcare. If you are not going to work; then, you don’t send your child to childcare.”

But now, she says, is a time to be understanding.

“I think centers need to think about it from a human, kindness interest point of view,” Elliott said.

Reporter:Sara Girard
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