Child care centers in limbo as schools prepare for fall instruction

CHARLOTTE — School plans for the fall in North Carolina are still up in the air, leaving working parents with a challenge: Who will watch -- and teach -- their kids?

Finding child care has been difficult during the pandemic, and with school plans uncertain, many parents are desperate for information and a solution.

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There is a pretty good chance that even if classrooms reopen, some kids will still be learning remotely -- potentially for days at a time -- which means working parents will have their own dilemma.

“I’m just kind of hoping for the best,” parent Annie Classen said.

That’s all families can do right now as they wait to learn what school will look like this fall.

“It’s definitely stressful,” Classen told Channel 9 education reporter Elsa Gillis. “I want to make sure that my kids get the best education that they can get.”

Classen is a working mother like so many others, still figuring out who would watch her children if remote learning is again a reality.

“Working full time, which I’m very grateful that I get to do, but I don’t get to be at home to kind of oversee and be involved the way I want to,” she said.

Classen said she may turn to family members. Other parents are turning to child care centers like C.O.S. Kids in Matthews, a child development center.

“Throwing in remote learning days, all of a sudden we’re going to have to have more staff on campus if we’re going to start taking care of those kids,” said Donna Sand, with C.O.S. Kids.

Sand said they typically have after school programs and full-day programs on certain days, like holidays. Now that could expand. But Sand told Channel 9 they can’t fully plan until they know what the schools are doing.

“Lots of phone calls, lots of what-ifs, lots of ‘Can you help me figure this out? Can you assure me that you are going to have something?’ So it’s hard because you want to promise them that we are definitely here and can do this, but until we know and can really plan, we don’t know,” Sand said.

Sand told Channel 9 anther challenge for childcare centers is that they usually pull from several schools, which would likely have different remote learning plans. That would be a challenge for their teachers to have to switch between.

Finding childcare could be a concern for parents even after the pandemic. The state’s Childcare Services Association predicts that 44% of childcare services could permanently close in North Carolina because of the financial loss from COVID-19.

That could result in the loss of nearly 144,000 childcare spots across the state, according to the Center for American Progress.

The impact would be felt throughout the economy. A survey by Northeastern University found that 13% of parents had to quit a job or reduce their hours due to a lack of childcare during the pandemic. The survey found parents were losing an average of eight hours of work a week because they had to address their kids’ needs.