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The surge that didn't happen: Cayuga County child care centers are quiet
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CHILD CARE

The surge that didn't happen: Cayuga County child care centers are quiet

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In mid-March, the phone at Child Care Solutions was ringing off the hook as schools suspended classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As parents tried to secure child care, the agency was prioritizing health care workers and first responders. And CCS, which also assists families in Onondaga County, was reporting all child care centers in Cayuga County were remaining open.

Living with the pandemic looks much different three weeks later. Many more people are home, either due to layoffs or being under state mandate to work remotely.

Even though essential employees in fields like health care, food supply and law enforcement are still reporting to work, Lori Schakow, executive director of CCS, said they're not seeing a lot of them calling to look for child care while school is still out of session.

Schakow reported Monday they were aware of only one larger child care center in Cayuga County that was still open the week before: Spring Street Community Care and Recreation in Union Springs, which had 11 slots. The E. John Gavras Center in Auburn also reopened its child care services on Monday in an effort to serve parents who work in industries deemed essential by the state during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, licensed group family care programs in Cayuga County are still providing about 65 combined enrollment slots. Those programs generally look after smaller groups of children supervised by a licensed adult and sometimes a licensed assistant.

"Anecdotally, what we are hearing is that the parents are concerned about sending their children to, for example the day care center, because they feel like there’s too many children and too great a risk of exposure," Schakow said.

She noted there's very few children in child care centers at the moment and, under normal circumstances, registered child care providers have to have "rigorous" infection control and sanitary precautions anyway. At the least, she advised against sending kids to be looked after by an elderly grandparent who might be at risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. 

At the Gavras Center in Auburn, the agency started their child care services again on Monday, and currently has two children enrolled in the program with more starting next week. 

Kenneth Ward, principal of educational services at the center, said they've reopened child care with a number of adjustments to accommodate essential workers.

"We were getting some requests from the community from other essential workers, nurses and the like, that they needed a place to put their kids," Ward said. 

Previously they were serving children ranging from 18 months to 5 years old. They're now opening their services to children from infancy to 12 years old, and they're operating seven days a week instead of their usual five days a week.

Also breaking from its normal parameters, the center is accepting children who aren't students at the center. 

Ward said part of the reason for the low numbers this week could be a conception of the Gavras Center as an agency that only serves children with special needs.

"We want folks to know that we are here to help across the board to support any and all children," Ward said.

Staff writer Mary Catalfamo can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or mary.catalfamo@lee.net. Find her on Twitter @mrycatalfamo.

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Crime/courts reporter

I cover criminal court, public safety and the Cayuga County government for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. You can also find my health and entertainment features online and in the Lake Life section of the paper.

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