Submitted by Daisy Girifalco
One month ago today was the last time our team was together, teaching. The rug was ripped out from under us as we quickly realized the impending danger of remaining open to 79 children and 19 adults. It just was not safe, but the decision kept us up at night wondering what the other daycare centers were doing and if the state was going to give us direction. Hanging in the balance were all the parents we support by providing care for their children so they can work.
Like many other times over the course of our 9-year ownership of the Bedford Children’s Center, we held our breath, made a decision, and crossed our fingers that it was the right one. This wasn’t a snow day decision; this was at least 2 weeks long, and now a month later we are guessing it will be extended further.
We sat there on that Monday when we closed, as did many of our counterparts in the area, but many others didn’t. We got some pushback from stressed-out parents asking what our plan was and noting that other centers were open, but all the public schools were closed. Then the mandate came from Governor Baker, all daycare centers are required to close by the next Tuesday.
As a small business owner, there are things that we do to remain prepared in case of unexpected events like natural disasters, power outages and snow days … but not this. This was beyond anyone’s ability to foresee. My peers were all wondering what everyone was doing regarding paying their teams for the short and long term, they wondered how to handle tuition from the parents, how to keep their buildings open, and would our vendors and suppliers understand what we were going through.
Largely they did, thankfully.
Many vendors and providers have put us on hold, friends and our community came to our aid with suggestions and resources. Then the federal government came to us with aid for business owners, but none of it is guaranteed nor is it going to happen quickly.
Over the course of three days, we communicated our disaster plan to our parents and our team, set up Zoom classes for the children, and implemented everything all at once.
The learning curve for the Zoom classes wasn’t too steep and the team worked well together in helping us all learn the technology. Seeing the children on the first days was truly so intensely difficult. These are children we spend our days with, and we were cut off instantly from the daily interactions and relationships we have with all of them and their families.
As an educator it’s shocking to have this happen, again we were floundering and in foreign emotional territory.
Now, a month in we find ourselves in what seems to be a good groove for all involved. We are all kidding ourselves if we say we are doing ok. I see parents out walking, and we look at each other in a pained way in this new behavior of no hugs. It’s foreign territory for an early childhood educator, and so very uncomfortable.
We have accepted the new normal of disinfecting, being socially distant and waiting patiently for updates and decisions by our local government to let us know when we can return and adjust to another new normal. Returning will also be an adjustment and learning more new behaviors, but at least we will be back and hopefully in a socially responsible way.
As a small business owner, we have been kicked while we were down, but we are looking to other owners and community members and our local Chamber of Commerce to allow us to recover and come together again as family-owned businesses that have worked so hard to build and sustain our families and our employees.
That time will come, and hopefully, most, if not all, will recover.