116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Child care and preschool centers that care for children under 5 years old whose families do not yet have the option of vaccinating them against COVID-19 are navigating rising cases of the virus in Eastern Iowa.
Pamela Groth, owner and director of Mother Goose Learning Center, said more children are getting sick with COVID-19 now than earlier in the pandemic.
“Last year, I can’t even remember a child testing positive, but this year has been difficult,” Groth said.
Mother Goose has had to occasionally adjust its hours of operation after staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 and there is no one to substitute for them, Groth said.
“People can’t go to their jobs if we’re not open to help watch their kids,” Groth said. “Kids need the stability, too, the social interaction and academics.”
Mother Goose Learning Center currently serves 106 children, from infants to 5 years old. Outbreaks go in waves at the center, Groth said. She considers an outbreak to be when three or more children and staff get sick within a week.
While children at the center — some younger than 2 years old — are not required to wear a mask, it is required for staff and visitors.
“I think that’s every parent’s right to make that decision for their children,” Groth said.
Groth also said it would be difficult to keep masks sanitary, between children touching their faces and removing masks during meal and snack times.
St. Pius X Early Learning Center put new guidelines in place earlier this month to mitigate spread of the virus after seeing a rise in cases.
Children who attend St. Pius X Early Learning Center are required to isolate at home for 10 days if they test positive for COVID-19. If someone living in their household tests positive, the child is required to quarantine until that person’s isolation period ends before beginning their own five-to-10-day quarantine.
The center is asking families get a doctor’s recommendation for when their child should return to the center and a negative COVID-19 test.
In a letter to families two weeks ago, Connie Schulte, the center’s director, said the guidelines are to help the center avoid possible classroom and center closures in the future.
Marcia Hughes, head of school at Cedar Valley Montessori School, said following mitigation protocols around COVID-19 has been a “moving target.”
Cedar Valley students and staff are required to isolate for 10 days if they test positive for COVID-19 and are symptomatic. Isolation only is required for five days if asymptomatic following five days of required masking.
Cedar Valley has had only a “handful of cases” since August 2021, Hughes said.
Students are not required to wear a mask, but staff and visitors are, Hughes added.
At Creekside Forest School, an outdoor-based preschool center based at Indian Creek Nature Center, students who are three and four years old are required to wear a mask while indoors. However, between 30 percent to 90 percent of students’ time at Creekside is spent outside.
At check-in, parents complete an illness screening and are asked if their child is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
Creekside Director Kelli Kennon-Lane said two children at the center have tested positive for COVID-19 since school began in September 2021.
Other children have been out of school to quarantine or isolate because a member of their household was exposed to COVID-19 or tested positive, Kennon-Lane said.
Omicron is causing more problems, however.
“Families are concerned, my staff is fatigued and we’re still being vigilant about safety,” Kennon-Lane said.
The outdoor environment “keeps our children a little bit safer,” Kennon-Lane said.
“Even on really cold winter days, there still is beauty and magic in being outdoors,” Kennon-Lane said, adding that getting children dressed in snow pants and boots is “no easy task.”
“We’re working with small children, and we still hold a lot of hands, give a lot of hugs and intentionally choosing not to sacrifice that personal connection,” Kennon-Lane said.
“We think it’s so important for children of this age being raised up in a pandemic.”
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