Concerns arise over the future of daycares amid pandemic

Posted at 9:37 PM, Aug 04, 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic first prompted shelter-in-place restrictions, daycares across the country quickly saw families withdraw their children from their centers. Many lost valuable tuition dollars that keeps their doors open.

"We've done the best we can in staying open and supporting our community. We are a locally private-owned school so our enrollment really depends on the survival of the school and we’re struggling. I mean, as probably all childcare centers are, we’re struggling with enrollment, we’re struggling with our numbers," says Debbie Bradford, the director of education at Milton Montessori in Georgia.

Bradford says the last few months have been very challenging as many families are worried about the coronavirus.

"The (coronavirus) numbers are on the rise so it’s definitely affecting the end of our school year, our summer and as we look to relaunch in August, we still see light enrollment," says Bradford.

The school, which has two locations, has been able to stay open due to a number of parents who are essential workers. Bradford says, "These are front-line families. Some of them are workers on the front line and some of them are workers at home but need the income to make ends meet for our families."

Primrose Schools has more than 400 locations across the country, providing infant daycare through private kindergarten. Primrose says the pandemic has dropped enrollment numbers at their facilities significantly.

"What we are seeing across the country is a very unsettling situation, where a lot of the family home cares that used to be accessible to families are closing. And the childcare centers, those individually owned and operated childcare centers, because of the shelter in place situation, many of them haven't been able to survive them," says Jo Kirchner, the CEO of Primrose Schools.

Kirchner has been meeting regularly with other national daycare facilities and says many are concerned about the future of the childcare industry.

"It is a potential crisis that is going to escalate significantly in the next eight to 10 weeks as the districts decide what they're going to do," says Kirchner.

One glimmer of hope is the boost of private kindergarten enrollment, which some parents have deemed a safer alternative than their local public school. Many hope private kindergarten enrollment can be kind of a saving grace for some private childcare centers.

"It will be somewhat of a saving grace in terms of bringing in base revenue to cover their fixed costs while we get through this pandemic and the families with the younger children will begin to come back,” Kirchner said.

For Milton Montessori, the owners are hopeful they will be able to ride out this pandemic.

"We hope that at some point, families get comfortable with the new requirements for cleaning and for health and safety. And as things return to a normal, it's going to be a new normal," says Bradford.

Bradford says they're hoping families start feeling safe enough to enroll their children and continue to support locally-owned childcare centers.