Minnesota daycare centers grow increasingly nervous about staying open amid coronavirus crisis

Minnesota early childhood and preschool educators are growing increasingly nervous about keeping their facilities open amid the coronavirus crisis.

The health department is again urging daycare centers and preschools to remain open, but the decision has left parents, educators and daycare providers with a tough call on what to do and how to keep kids and staff safe.

Some teachers, like those at Horizon Academies across the Twin Cities metro area, are worried.

They have remained open with some significant policy changes focused on health concerns, including reducing class sizes where possible and asking both parent and child to get a body temperature check to rule out fevers before drop off.

Some frontline teachers believe these kinds of measures do not go far enough.

“So, it’s a really, really, really hard decision for people right now,” said one preschool teacher in an interview with FOX 9.

This teacher, whose center is still open, said they have decided to stay away from the facility and take unpaid leave because they are concerned about the transmission of COVID-19.

“I think there are better ways right now to provide that care than to be using group settings,” they said. “I think the risk for everyone involved is just not worth it.”

While the governor has ordered all K-12 schools to close and focus on distance instruction, or e-learning, his administration has recommended the daycares continue to operate. The idea is that it provides a vital service for parents who must work right now.

There are a growing number of teachers who are uncomfortable with the idea, however.

A petition demanding the governor take Minnesota childcare workers off the front line of COVID-19 has garnered a couple hundred virtual signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

“Infants are not safe. Please help us,” it reads.

“Every childcare provider needs to make their own decisions about what is best for their own livelihoods and their families,” said CIsa Keller, of Think Small, a nonprofit working with childcare providers on improving early education outcomes statewide.

She says the vast majority of daycares and preschools have remained open in recent days with stricter health protocols. One educator, however, said it is not enough to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

“I’ve talked to so many people who are struggling to know what is the right thing to do because childcare providers care a lot about the kids they care for and want to be there for them and their families, but we want everyone to be safe,” they said.