Petition seeks changes in child-care standards
“None of this is feasible,” document says
WHEN IT COMES TO caring for children, what is safe and what is realistic may be two different things.
That conflict is growing as daycares consider whether and how to reopen under state guidelines released Monday that include physical distancing and encourage mask use, daily temperature checks, and frequent cleaning.
When the guidelines were announced, daycare providers questioned their feasibility. Providers said they may not be able to stay in business if they had to cut class sizes to meet new staffing ratios and space requirements. They questioned how to teach children lessons like sharing and how to care for infants who need hands-on care.
As of Friday morning, more than 24,000 people had signed a fast-growing petition on Change.org asking the Department of Early Education and Care to revise the standards and let providers open on their own terms.
Comments on the petition are pointed. A preschool teacher says the regulations would turn early childhood education into “a prison.” Another educator says children need to play with peers and bond with caregivers to gain social skills. One signer calls the requirements “asinine” and “unrealistic.”
The petition was started by Nicole DeiCicchi, a working mother of two from Falmouth. DeiCicchi told CommonWealth that she had been looking forward to returning her kids to daycare, so they could have some normalcy. Now, her daycare provider will have to cut families – and even if she gets a spot, DeiCicchi worries that her children won’t enjoy daycare, and that teachers will be focused mainly on cleaning, separating kids, and encouraging mask use.
“I’m concerned from a social standpoint that they’re going to be instilled with fear and just scared to touch anybody or go near anybody,” DeiCicchi said.
State officials say the regulations were written with health and safety in mind by a working group that includes officials from state health and education agencies, with input from childcare providers. They were reviewed by Boston Children’s Hospital medical experts. The rules are intended to remain in place through the summer, but can be amended as public health experts learn more.
Gov. Charlie Baker, asked whether some daycares will be unable to reopen, said it is hard to predict. The Boston Business Journal reported that Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy acknowledged how hard social distancing will be with toddlers and said the state’s approach “is meant to be supportive, not punitive.”The Boston Globe recently visited an emergency daycare to find a model for what childcare might look like. They found individualized school supplies, masked caregivers, and temperature checks. But those centers have been fairly empty, with parents hesitating to send children. And the new guidelines are different – for example, emergency daycares can have more students in a room than non-emergency centers.
State Rep. Mathew Muratore, a Plymouth Republican, runs three childcare centers – one emergency center and two others. Muratore thinks the standards are “somewhat doable,” and teachers can develop creative ways to teach and keep kids separate.