Rivermont Early Learning Center closes as child care centers wrestle with coronavirus fallout

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - It’s a decision many child care programs are facing, with impacts locally and across the state.

“Across the state of Virginia right now, about 48 percent of child care programs are closed," said Karen Wesley, United Way of Central Virginia director of educational programming and Smart Beginnings.

Ellen Feild is the director at Rivermont Early Learning Center.

Its 32-year program will turn off its lights Friday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“[We had] less than 50 percent enrollment when we re-opened in July and then as we got closer to our fall program starting in August - late August - then I was getting calls saying, you know, ‘we’re not ready yet, I’m still working from home,’” said Feild.

A sharp drop in enrollment combined with staffing issues forced Feild’s program to make the tough decision to close.

But those same problems have made their way into other programs as well.

“Look at all these combined - it basically overall increases the cost of running a child care center," said Wesley.

Wesley says finances are forcing the hand of places like Rivermont Early Learning Center to close.

Wesley says with programs like Feild’s closing, about 153,000 child care slots across the state are gone.

Although some of those may come back, Feild says the long-term outlook is not bright.

“I think that in the future if more centers close, it’s gonna be a real hardship for these families," said Feild.

“If there are programs that can no longer operate because of all these changes and the impact of COVID-19, when the pandemic does end, we will have fewer places for children to go," said Wesley.

“I wanted to make sure [families] found placement for their children and that the staff are able to find other jobs. I just carry a lot of that responsibility that they’re gonna be okay," said Feild.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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