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Childcare centers adapt to change during the pandemic

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - People have said the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a "new normal" for everyone, but at Stepping Stones Learning Center in Eau Claire, the day to day operations are new, but anything from normal.

"It's just been really hard with having to lay off staff and trying to keep families happy," said Stepping Stones' Assistant Director Brittany Wiuff.

Wiuff said those lay offs have caused their center to drop their staffing to a third of its normal size.

"Typically we have about 30 staff," she said. "We've only been able to employ about five full-time and five part-time."

Wiuff said it's because the numbers of kids coming in has also dropped, due to a combination of state regulations on how many children are allowed in the building, and more parents working from home.

"Normally we have about 50 to 60 kids a day, and during all of this, on a low day we've had 12, on a high day we've had 20," she added.

The numbers aren't the only thing that's changed for daycares. At the Learning Tree, monitoring symptoms of COVID-19 has been added to the list of daily tasks.

"When staff and children arrive, we take their temperature, and then we also take their temperature after nap time as well. So two times a day," said owner of the Learning Tree, Cassi Stoeklen.

On top of extra sanitation at both centers, staff have learned it's a struggle for children to socially distance.

"I think realistically in a daycare, it's very hard to make two and three and four-year-olds stay that far apart from their friends and understand why," said Stoeklen.

So the onus is on staff members to teach proper hygiene and lead by example.

"We also model that as staff, so that the children are able to see how to correctly keep our germs to ourselves," Stoeklen added.

Both centers said that most children in need of care right now are those whose parents are essential workers, but that may change in the coming months if businesses continue to reopen.

Dani Smith

News Producer

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