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Evans County childcare centers strained during school closures

The Evans County Charter School System has closed for the rest of the week due to the number of...
The Evans County Charter School System has closed for the rest of the week due to the number of students and staff out with covid. This has left some parents of younger children scrambling for back-up plans for childcare.(WTOC)
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:56 PM EST
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EVANS COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The Evans County Charter School System has closed for the rest of the week due to the number of students and staff out with COVID. This has left some parents of younger children scrambling for back-up plans for childcare.

Daycare providers at Olive Tree Early Learning Center say they had to bring in an additional teacher Wednesday to care for students after Tuesday night’s school cancellation.

Crystal McKever and Larae Hendrix are getting organized during another busy day of caring for children.

“So, we learned last night, actually after the 7:00 hour, that Evans County Schools would be closed, so we had to really scramble and make sure that we had the adequate amount of staff needed to service our children,” said McKever, a pre-school teacher at Olive Tree Early Learning.

Staffing concerns, an issue not unique to the Evans County area.

“A lot of programs haven’t enrolled as many children as they had pre-pandemic. Because of staffing issues, they may not  be able to enroll as many children as they even want to right now,” said Pam Stevens with the Department of Early Care and Learning.

According to the Department of Early Care and Learning, Evans County has three licensed childcare centers and two family childcare learning homes. These numbers have stayed consistent throughout the pandemic, but officials say that doesn’t give the full picture.

“The information we don’t have is if a program has an outbreak or teachers who get the virus, or kids who get the virus, they have to shut down classrooms, a program may be open, but it doesn’t mean the whole program is open,” said Stevens.

While childcare providers work hard to keep their kids safe, it does present its own unique challenges with COVID-19.

“Masking is kind of hard with them. Social distancing, it’s hard for them to understand why it’s necessary for them to do the distancing,” said Larae Hendrix, lead teacher at Olive Tree Early Learning.

This, compiled with increased demand during school closures, proves difficult for providers.

“To meet that demand is a challenge by itself, because it’s hard to find people that want to work right now because of the pandemic, but that’s understandable,” said McKever.

With one lasting message to children and families –

“The ones that are sick, please stay home, don’t come out if you’re sick or showing any symptoms,” said Hendrix.

Providers say their main goal is to keep their children safe and healthy.

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