Tampa Bay area childcare facilities start reopening but face challenging new normal

Markings on Floor at KidsPark Oldsmar for Social Distancing
Posted at 5:09 AM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 11:49:11-04

OLDSMAR, Fla. — Some Tampa Bay area childcare facilities are starting to reopen but are facing a challenging new normal.

Child care programs need to follow the governor's Executive Order 20-91 regarding Essential Services and Activities.

KidsPark Oldsmar reopened earlier this week after closing amid coronavirus concerns. However, they are operating far differently than before the pandemic.

"We've only brought back a limited staff so that we only have a certain number of staff members here," said Georgeann Hull, co-owner of KidsPark Oldsmar. "We are not bringing back our full staff load, and that's hard too."

In addition to changes to staffing levels and capacity, many childcare facilities like KidsPark Oldsmar are taking extra steps to ensure social distancing measures.

The new steps include only allowing two families in the lobby at a time and using markers on the floor, indicating where families should stand to remain six feet apart.

Markings on Floor at KidsPark Oldsmar for Social Distancing

Also, only eight children and one teacher are placed in a classroom at a time, and they don't switch out teachers or groups.

When children enter the daycare, cleanliness is a top priority for staffers.

"When they come in, they get a squirt of hand sanitizer," said Lisa Bradley, KidsPark Oldsmar Director. "They are also washing regularly throughout the day at the sinks, and we try to eliminate them bringing anything in. Everything goes into their cubbies."

Children also have their temperature taken and recorded on their nametag. It's retaken every hour to track any changes that may happen during the day.

Bathrooms are cleaned after every child uses the facilities, according to Hull. All play stations are also cleaned with disinfectant immediately after children use them.

Additionally, all childcare workers are wearing masks. However, children are not required to. Hull is leaving that decision up to parents.

While some facilities navigate reopening, many face uncertain times in Tampa Bay about when and how to resume safely.

Some childcare programs have not been able to care for all their usual familiesbecause of limited capacity, insufficient supplies, and staff shortages.

The Florida Department of Education has said it will work to support high-quality childcare facilities in reopening their doors, specifically to families with infants, toddlers and special needs children.

More resources on childcare options in Pinellas county

Information for Hillsborough families and providers: