More than 8,500 early education centers across the state can officially welcome back tots and toddlers, under the state’s Phase Two of re-opening.
But more than 35,000 signatures have been added to an online petition criticizing the new health and safety guidelines required for re-opening. The petition calling for revisions was started by Falmouth mom Nicole DeiCicchi.
The guidelines include requirements like smaller class sizes, social distancing among children, and face masks for everyone aged 2 and up. Those who re-open will have to cut enrollment and ban hugging, plush toys, play dough, and other classroom materials that can't be easily cleaned.
“My worst nightmares came true when I started reading [the guidelines],” said Tammy Inman, owner of Little Kids Inc., a daycare and pre-school in Falmouth.
In a report, the state acknowledged it may be hard for child care programs to meet the requirements for reopening, but maintain that they put the “health and safety of the Commonwealth’s children and program staff at the forefront.”
Petitioners are urging the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care to "revise their requirements" and "allow providers to open up on their own terms."
“Socially distancing toddlers, three year olds, four year olds,” Inman said, “and having enough time, money, and resources, seems pretty much impossible.”
Inman said she generally supports face masks for older children, temperature checks, and stricter guidelines around cleaning and parent-teacher communication.
But, she said, most of the requirements simply aren’t realistic, and she’s afraid that cutting enrollment and limiting class sizes could destroy privately-owned daycares and leave working-parents and guardians without local, affordable childcare.
“The income loss, the new regulations, maybe not getting teachers back that you had before,” she said, “when you put all those things together, the businesses are going to be crippled and they’re not going to make it.”