Daycares and daycare centers are making changes to procedures and operations for the safety of children, families and staff.

In Waseca County, COVID-19 has limited some of the daycares and centers to only offer services to essential workers.

At Grace Garden child center, located in the basement of Grace Lutheran Church in Waseca, is currently open Monday through Friday 6:45 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. for kids of essential workers.

In March, when the announcement was made to send students to distance learning Grace Garden took about two weeks to clean, plan and monitor the situation to reopen to serve the families in need.

The staff of Grace Garden follow the guidelines from the Waseca Public Health Department and the Minnesota Department of Health on how to continue operation.

One change that has been implemented is the church is locked with only church staff allowed in, so drop off and pick up has been adjusted. The daycare staff meet parents and children at the door and screen for fevers and wash the kids hands before taking them to the center.

Additional cleaning and sanitizing has been added to keep the kids and staff safe each day.

“Our enrollment and staffing is limited and I have a great team of flexible and willing people who are helping to make this work,” Grace Garden Director Tricia Vasquez said.

Grace Lutheran Church recently approved a grant to allow the childcare center to pay the staff who have been furloughed. This grant will allow Grace Garden to pay the furloughed staff for eight weeks. After the eight weeks a new plan will be evaluated.

“I am so thankful for the support of the church during this time; they are willing to put up with a little more ‘presence’ than normal,” Vasquez said. “We are confident that God continues to be in control of this entire situation and will not be taken by surprise, and we’ll keep trusting him as we come to work each day.”

At Waseca School Age Care in Waseca, also known as the Jay’s Nest, changes can also be seen as a direct result of COVID-19.

The Jay’s Nest is only open to tier one and tier two essential workers for free of charge.

Tier one workers are in healthcare, law enforcement, food and agriculture, judicial branch and numerous other occupations. Tier two essential workers are those working in water, energy, critical manufacturing, communications and many others listed on the Minnesota official website.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and the Commissioner of Education came up with a plan that includes childcare for at least tier one employees to be offered for free for district and charter enrolled students.

Another change implemented to help limit the exposure at the Jay’s Nest is class sizes have been cut down to a maximum of six kids to one teacher in a room.

Other procedures have been added such as no gym or auditorium time with numerous classrooms. The kids are no longer using lockers and there is distance learning for those kids who are of preschool age.

“I’m very impressed with our families and staff’s ability to roll with new things,” Jay’s Nest Program Director Katie Staloch said. “Everyone’s been pretty awesome with all of the changes.”

Reach Reporter Bailey Grubish at 507-837-5451 or follow her on Twitter @wcnbailey. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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