FAIRMONT — When West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice mandated that schools had to close due to coronavirus entering the state, staff members of Bumble Bear Corner Childcare were ready to take on more kids while their parents were at work.
However, Justice’s following mandate closing businesses such as restaurants, bars and gyms meant that a lot of parents actually got to stay home with their kids.
“A lot of our families have been able to take care of kids in home,” said Leanne Lutz, director of Bumble Bear Corner on Columbus Street in Fairmont. “We have about the same amount of kids that we have during the day for 5 and younger. Now our population is more school-aged.
“A lot of our parents have been able to work from home, so we have a number lower than we were anticipating.”
Despite the closing of businesses throughout the state, some day care centers in the area are staying open. However, some daycare and child care centers in Marion County have seen a decrease in attendance over the past few days, in light of the closings due to COVID-19.
Administrators of other childcare centers agree with Lutz and are seeing parents either staying home from work or working from home, thus eliminating the need for daycare.
“We are seeing fewer kids,” said Marty Morris, assistant director of LearningLand Daycare and Preschool on Fairmont Avenue. “A lot of parents are working from home, either that, or they have closed their business and are out of employment, or they are just staying out for precautionary reasons.”
On the flip side, federally-funded Head Start centers in Marion County have closed to daycare, but are continuing to provide families with food and educational material during the pandemic.
“What we are doing is we are providing meals,” said Pam Nolan, family resource coordinator for Head Start. “They get daily breakfast and a lunch, we have been delivering them to families.”
Administered through the Department of Health and Human Resources, Head Start provides families with educational and nutritional aid throughout West Virginia, and Nolan said, those services will continue with employees making deliveries.
“We are providing activities for the children so they get an activity packet,” Nolan said. “When we took their meals to them, we took their activity packet also. So those are things they’re getting for support.”
Nolan said all Head Start centers are closed at this time, and will remain that way until further notice. She said delivery of the meals and the educational packets will continue for Head Start families, and the centers will reopen at a later date.
“Everything is developing and changing day to day as we speak as to where we’re going with this,” Nolan said. “All of our Head Starts, they’re all over one governing body.”
Other daycare centers are also making adjustments day by day on decisions, including the decision to stay open. Lutz said Bumble Bear was at capacity for enrollment prior to the coronavirus, so once everything reopens, things could change.
“We were at capacity before,” Lutz said. “We are still open; we are taking it day by day to see if they mandate anything else.”
For the time being, daycare centers are taking advantage of the smaller group sizes to perform extensive cleaning measures, and keep kids at a healthy distance. Morris said LearningLand staff is also being kept at a minimum, in part, because of the smaller groups of kids.
“It does help us to do extensive cleaning and it also cuts back on employment,” Morris said. “A lot of people are not working because we’re having to send them home.”
Lutz said the staff at Bumble Bear, too, is practicing social distancing, by keeping kids in small groups and apart from one another.
“The numbers now allow us to keep them far apart, implement extra cleaning measures,” Lutz said. “We do have quite a few kids here now. We have about 30 kids and keeping them in groups of 10.”