McKINNEY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — Rickie Lafon was watching closely Monday, as Governor Greg Abbott announced the next wave of restrictions on businesses the state would be lifting.
“It was a joy to hear those words — that it was opening up child care.”
The owner of Sunrise Learning Center in McKinney, Lafon also serves as president of the Texas Licensed Child Care Association, representing centers statewide.
He estimates more than half have closed within the past two months.
At his own center, he saw two-thirds of children stop coming within a matter of days.
“Parents were terrified to go out,” he said.
Lafon was worried what it meant for his family run business.
“It scared me to death. I had a lot of sleepless nights. I think a lot of us in the child care industry have,” he said.”
For weeks, the state has prohibited centers from accepting any children other than those with parents deemed essential workers.
That’s now changed, but many of the precautions required of child care centers haven’t.
Destiny Garrett drops off and picks up her two-year-old daughter at the daycare doors.
“It’s a little different, you know, but I’d rather be safe than sorry,” she said.
Access inside is limited, even to parents.
Lafon says he still allows prospective families to tour his facility, but only after business hours.
Texas is also requiring children, employees and anyone else walking through the doors be screened and have their temperature checked.
Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will be turned away.
Hands are washed repeatedly throughout the day and new routines reinforce social distancing.
“We’ve had parents say, ‘Do the kids really understand how to stay apart?’ And we say, ‘Sure!’”
Lafon says at his center, teachers have the children count tiles between them.
“Always make sure your friend is three steps ahead,” Lafon says they’re taught.
There are new limits on how many children centers can accept.
The state is now restricting child care centers to no more than 10 children per caregiver and 20 to a room with two caregivers. Ratios will be even smaller in rooms with children under three years of age.
Previously, though, a caregiver for kids between 6 and 13 years old could watch as many as 26 at a time.
“Everyone’s worried about the ratios,” said Lafon.
Lafon said, if they don’t change, the cost of child care will go up.
“It will have to, to compensate. Yea,” he said.
With many providers nervous about the future, Lafon is focusing on the positive.
He’s happy he’ll now be able to welcome back more children and knows parents will be happy, too.