More cleaning, more space, fewer kids: How child care centers have opened up again

There's a lot more space between kids in the Rainbow Child Development Center in Bowie, Maryland.
There’s a lot more space between kids in the Rainbow Child Development Center in Bowie, Maryland.

Children and parents get their temperature checked on the way in the door. Parents cannot go with their children into the center, even if they pass the screening.
Children and parents get their temperature checked on the way in the door. Parents cannot go with their children into the center, even if they pass the screening.

Children can still play, but the staff of the child care center has to make sure each toy used gets a thorough cleaning afterwords. 
Children can still play, but the staff of the child care center has to make sure each toy used gets a thorough cleaning afterward.

Children start the day by washing their hands before they can play with their friends. 
Children start the day by washing their hands before they can play with their friends.

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There's a lot more space between kids in the Rainbow Child Development Center in Bowie, Maryland.
Children and parents get their temperature checked on the way in the door. Parents cannot go with their children into the center, even if they pass the screening.
Children can still play, but the staff of the child care center has to make sure each toy used gets a thorough cleaning afterwords. 
Children start the day by washing their hands before they can play with their friends. 

There are many child care centers around the D.C. region that remain closed due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, but those that have reopened have seen their daily procedures and protocols change. One center in Bowie, Maryland, shared its “new normal.”

At the Rainbow Child Development Center, parents and children get their temperatures checked every day as soon as they walk in the doorway.

They are asked a series of questions about experiencing any coronavirus symptoms or a history of contact with someone who has had COVID-19. Answer correctly, and that doorway — featuring a table with gloves and hand sanitizer on it — is as far as a parent can go inside the facility.

Instead, someone working at the child care center escorts the child the rest of the way to their classroom these days.

“Once the children go into their classroom, the first thing they do is wash their hands,” said Maria Campbell, the director of admissions at Rainbow. “Then, they’re able to join their friends.”

She said some toys that were too difficult to clean had been put away, including play dough or props used to play dress-up.

“In terms of the cleaning, the toys that they’re using in the morning, those are cleaned after they use them, and then, they’re put away for the rest of the day,” Campbell said.

In the past, a can of disinfectant spray might last a couple of weeks. Now, it can go from full to empty in a day.

Before the facility reopened in June, Campbell prepared to take a 45-minute Zoom call to talk to families. Instead, it turned into a 90-minute meeting, explaining to anxious parents what were the measures being implemented to minimize the potential for any virus to be spread.

Though not everyone who attended the child care center before the pandemic is back, there’s been a steady return.

“Reassuring them daily that everything is going really well,” is all part of the job now, Campbell said.

Despite the anxiety, there’s also a waiting list for before and aftercare in the fall. In a typical year, the details would be all figured out, but now, that’s not the case.

Campbell said she understands that school reopening plans for the fall will impact how parents will return to work and what kind of child care services will be in demand.

“This is definitely unprecedented,” Campbell said. “We’ve really just had to reinvent ourselves in so many ways.”

And until there’s a concrete plan for reopening, and Prince George’s County enters Phase Three, that reinvention will continue to be a work in progress.


More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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