It’s an unusually quiet afternoon at Sharrer My Day Care in Michigan Center, Mich.
“It’s very weird,” Sharrer My Day Care President Carrie Sharrer said. “I’ve never had this much time off at one time.”
Sharrer has owned her day care for 24 years, and she has never taken more than a week off, until now.
“It sounded good at first because I thought, ‘Well, I’ll get to rest a little bit and not hear all the noise for a while,’ but it’s actually not what it’s cracked up to be,” Sharrer said. “I think I’d rather be working.”
Sharrer kept her daycare open roughly one week after all of the schools closed because she didn’t realize how serious COVID-19 was, but she also wasn’t sure if her business would survive if she closed it. After speaking with her family and realizing the severity of the pandemic, she made the “hard decision” to shut her doors to protect her family.
“We are a close-contact; there isn’t any place to keep kids separated, they’re just all over each other, playing and putting their mouths on everything, so really, there’s no way of separating kids from doing that kind of stuff,” Sharrer said. “It’s really a hard decision to make. We have done it so long and you know your business is going to suffer immediately from it. It really is more important to stay healthy and alive than worry about that. You have to worry about your family first.”
The day care is like home away from home for Carly Hovious’s two-year-old daughter, Harper.
“We’ve used Carrie since my daughter was young,” Hovious said. “She’s just been awesome. The workers there are great; there’s like these motherly instincts from all of them.”
Hovious, a high school physical education teacher, and her husband, a manager, are working from home now. When the schools shut down and both parents got the opportunity to work remotely, they decided to keep their daughter at home.
Hovious said it’s been an interesting transition having all three of them home at once, but she and her husband are relishing the extra time they get to spend with their daughter.
“I’m just grateful, honestly, to have these moments with her and see her kind of grow and develop, because normally she’d just be at daycare and I would see her at the end of the day or something,” Hovious said.
While Sharrer decided to close her day care, childcare is still available in Jackson County.
“We are staying open to meet the needs of the families that are essential workers,” ABC Academy Executive Director Mariann Gladstone said. “It would break my heart to know that a child in Jackson County did not have a place to go.”
The childcare center is taking extra precautions to keep everyone safe.
It requires mandatory health screenings for employees, parents and children, with surveys that ask questions about their health and whether or not they’ve been exposed to anyone with COVID-19. Everyone’s temperature is checked, employees conduct regular deep-cleans throughout the building, everyone washes their hands regularly, children are prohibited from bringing outside items into the facility and anyone showing symptoms are sent home. ABC Academy also combined two of its locations “to make sure that we had a building that we could have deep-cleaned and ready to go so if we had a case, we would be able to move all our children that have not been exposed into that building.”
“We’re always thinking ahead,” Gladstone said. “Our administration team is meeting, talking about those future steps to always be one step ahead of this disease that is so unknown to us and looking for the best policies and guidelines that we can implement to keep everyone safe and healthy.”
Gladstone said there aren’t as many children but this allows for smaller classroom sizes and more distancing. For the children who are home, the day care is finding new ways to keep them engaged with Zoom meetings and videos posted on Facebook.
“We’re thinking outside [the] box to take those activities to the children that are at home, so that they still have the same ABC experience,” Gladstone said.
However, it’s just not the same as face-to-face interaction.
“Sometimes, it’s hard,” Gladstone said. “You want to reach out and hold those children, and of course they’re on the other side of a computer screen, so it makes it a little bit more challenging.”
Hovious said she and her husband can’t wait for their daughter to be able to enjoy day care again, and while they cherish this time together, Sharrer misses her kids and helpers.
“I guess you don’t realize how much that noise really means to you when it’s gone,” Sharrer said.
She’s looking forward to reopening Sharrer My Day Care so she can have a routine and “The structure of your life to be back.”
“I mean, just having something to get up and do every day; I already miss that and it’s only the third day,” Sharrer said.