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Daycare demand grows with possibility of temporary school closures

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 5:28 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Temporary school closures due to a surge in COVID-19 cases have some parents scrambling for childcare providers. This week, the Wichita school district announced that three of its elementary schools aren’t having classes Tuesday due to illness-related staff shortages and an inability to fill those absences.

It’s a situation that isn’t surprising and likely will continue as districts scramble to keep students meeting in-person. Last week, Eyewitness News shared tips to stay proactive in case your child’s school is temporarily closed. This includes talking to your employer about the possibility of remote work, discussing childcare with people whom you trust and, if your options are limited, seeing if there are daycares that allow drop-ins.

Eyewitness News spoke with the owner of Roth Academy in Wichita, Meg Roth, who decided to open her own daycare after not being able to find space for her children, ages two and six months.

“I love being a mom, so being home with my kids, I knew was the right thing,” Roth said. To be able to provide that stability, comfort, consistency, knowledge for other parents that I was looking for in another daycare provider, I knew I could do that, so, I wanted to provide it for others.”

Roth is now utilizing her education degree to care for her children, as well as others. Although she doesn’t accept drop-ins, she offered advice for parents in a similar situation that she faced.

“If you’re reaching out to daycare providers and keep getting shut down, there are places like child start or KDHE (the Kansas Department of Health and Environment) that you can go to them and say, ‘are there childcare providers that have openings?’ They will give you a list and you can go from there,” Roth said. “But honestly, the next best thing is to stay home with your kids, and that’s hard. Or a grandma or grandpa, but if you don’t have family around, that’s hard.”

Roth said she knows the frustration parents are feeling and her inbox says it all.

“A lot of people are asking, ‘hey, do you accept drop-ins?’” she said. ‘Like, my work is closed down. I need someone for the day.’ It is sad [because] you have to turn them way if you don’t have a spot that’s open. It’s sad and it’s like, ‘I hope you find something. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.’”

The new business owner said it’s not easy finding daycare because proper licensing takes time.

“It takes a little bit for that even to happen,” Roth said. “So, I wonder with this COVID surge if there’ll be another group of people who stay home and try to do this.”

Wichita Public Schools said it hopes to give parents two to three days’ notice before a school is temporarily closed.

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