Tens of Thousands Sign Petitions to Change Rules for Reopening Child Care Centers

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A petition to revise the requirements for reopening child care centers in Massachusetts has been signed by tens of thousands of people.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 25,000 people had signed on in hopes of changing some of the regulations.

Some of the child care providers who reached out to NBC10 Boston said the new minimum regulations were "unrealistic," "impossible" and "detrimental to children."

"I'm very uncomfortable greeting children in a HAZMAT suit," said Sara Salzberg, owner of Sara's Playgroup Brighton.

"They're going to be so excited to come, and then to have them walk in here and, 'Oh no, put your mask on, you can't do this, you can't do that, you can't go near him, you can't help her, you can't' – it's going to hurt them, it's not going to be good for them at all," said Tracy Kitner, who runs Tiny Tots Daycare and Preschool in Westford.

"I hug them, I kiss their boo boos, I pick them up and cuddle them, I rock them to sleep, I do all that stuff, and for me not to be able to do that, it's hard for me to open up my day care," said Sutton family day care owner April Shaw, beginning to tear up.

Some child care providers – like Sherry Hasche, owner of Right-At-Home Daycare in Westford – say they're concerned these restrictive rules could lead to the collapse of the already fragile child care system here.

"A lot of providers are leaving, they're not going back because they can't afford the cut in numbers and they also can't afford to pay for all of these safety protocols," Hasche said.

Laura Katragjini runs the Country Montessori Preschool and Early Learning Center in Sutton and says she doesn't know how she can explain to families already enrolled that she needs to cut her numbers from more than 80 children to just 30 – especially when she's been operating emergency care under the previous ratios.

"How was it OK to fit 20 kids in a classroom now during the height of the pandemic, and then all of a sudden, you're going to have the general population come back, and we have to cut it in half?" Katragjini asked.

The state Department of Early Education and Care has said these requirements are aligned with the most recent health and safety guidance released by the CDC for child care.

NBC10 Boston received so many comments from child care providers across the state, we are sharing additional comments below:

"How will they know when someone is happy or sad? How will they learn to play together if I'm telling them NO you can't play with your friends. How will I teach if I can't sit them together on the rug to read a book and spell their name? This will make this kids withdrawn and non-social, maybe even non-verbal," said Ryanmarie Connors of East Taunton.

"Unfortunately, childcare was already broken when it came to finances before the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers have been fighting for years for higher wages and parents have been fighting for lower tuition costs. I do not see how private childcare centers will be able to survive having smaller ratios without some kind of financial assistance from the government or from EEC to supplement the loss," said Melissa Denish, director of a child care center and an advocate for the child care community.

"We understand that it is our choice to open in July, and that programs who cannot adhere to the new requirements may remain closed. Since we will incur significant losses either way, we will attempt to open for our families in July and August. But, we will not be able to remain open in September if the requirements remain the same; instead, we'll have to close our doors for good. If the last 11 weeks of mandated closure did not put us out of business, these new requirements surely will," said Michael Gustafson of the Dracut Children's House.

"No water play, no shared toys, no interaction, no mealtime talks, no sensory, no outside climbing toys, no circle time, no walks, no field trips. This is NOT how a child's brain grows and develops! There has to be a better way," said Maureen Sherry, an assistant director in a child care setting.

"The regulations that EEC has put forth are ridiculous and many daycares are planning to close as a result (or remain closed until Sept). Some of the things that the commissioner neglected to mention in her speech yesterday is that the state of Massachusetts was given 46 million dollars to aide childcare providers. The state of Massachusetts has decided only to give these funds to daycares that accept subsidy children (20% of the daycares) in MA. The other 80% of daycares are left to fend for ourselves," said Jennifer Simpson, a child care provider and former preschool teacher.

"Is it feasible to open my home daycare with these guidelines? No, not at all. Nor do I have a desire to welcome my little friends back into my home under these circumstances. My home was a place where they're used to playing with their friends, doing crafts together, dancing in clusters, listening to a story sitting next to one another, sharing a meal together. I'm not about to open my doors only to separate the kids. Watch them as they play alone. Teach them the opposite of everything I've taught them before. Don't share. Don't touch. Don't hug. Monitor them all day to make sure no symptoms arise. That's not daycare," said Monica Leavitt, who runs a North Andover home day care.

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