Child Care Providers Given Choice to Open to Full Capacity

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Beginning Aug. 9, child care providers in the state will be permitted to return to normal statutory ratios and class sizes, foregoing any subsidy from the state.

During his coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine said child care providers will have to the option to either reopen fully or continue to operate with reduce ratios. The idea is to provide options to parents who both work and have to make a decision on what to do with their kids, he said.

“We know children cannot learn unless they’re safe, unless they’re cared for,” DeWine said. “And without access to child care, parents may resort to less than ideal options because they have no choice for child care. That might include relying on an elderly grandmother, grandfather, who would normally everything would be fine, except today they’re at a much greater risk for Covid.”

Child care centers haven’t been operating at full capacity since March when the state initially ordered them closed, except for those with temporary pandemic licenses. In May, centers were permitted to reopen with reduced class sizes.

Since then, the state had been subsidizing child care centers to the tune of about $30 million monthly to ensure they would have sufficient funds to operate the way they needed to with the reduced class sizes, he said.

More information about this order will be available in the coming days, but basically, child care centers will have the option to either continue receiving subsidies while maintaining current ratios, or open to full capacity and forego the subsidy.

Currently, classroom sizes have been reduced to nine for preschool to school-age children, and six for infants and toddlers.

Centers are still expected to maintain strict cleaning and social distancing guidelines, including face coverings for all staff and children older than 10, unless there are health exemptions; symptom and temperature checks for all staff and children upon arrival; hand-washing throughout the day, as well as arrival and departure; thorough cleaning of all high-touch surfaces and regular deep cleaning.

Since the start of the pandemic, 442 individuals associated with child care centers – including 306 staff and 136 children – have tested positive for COVID-19. According to a study by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, of those who tested, about 75% actually came from community spread rather than from the child care center itself.

Potential data from a large study currently being done on child care in which Ohio is participating could yield additional changes, DeWine said.

The governor thanked child care providers in the state for their continued work during the pandemic.

“These are not easy jobs in normal times,” DeWine said. “And they’re certainly not easy as we live with this Covid.”

On a related note, during questions from the press, the governor noted that additional school guidance could be released Thursday.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.