Ohio Church Keeps Daycare Open for Children of “Essential” Workers
By Kim Ousley
Many healthcare workers and other employees identified as performing essential jobs were left without a safe place for their children while they worked during the COVID-19 outbreak. School and daycare closures placed stress on these already overtaxed people. The government of Ohio, however, stepped in early to provide special guidelines and funds for daycare and preschools to stay open. Michelle Mayes, administrator of the Rainbow Daycare and Preschool located at the First Church of God, Defiance, Ohio, immediately approached the church about remaining open.
The daycare, already located at the church, was ideal for providing a place for these children affected by the statewide shutdown. Rainbow is the only daycare in their city that takes six-week-old infants through children up to twelve years old. All that was necessary was completing state required paperwork.
Mayes is “thankful that Ohio did it the way they did,” allowing licensed daycare centers to apply. Parents also had to fill out paperwork to prove they were essential workers in need at this time. The state’s goal was offering a way for daycare centers to keep safely serving children of essential workers.
Ohio’s state government required application for those interested in becoming a pandemic childcare center. This process permitted already existing centers, like Rainbow, to transfer into its Pandemic Care Program. Licensed facility ratings, number of children per room, and interaction at drop-off and pick-up were essential to the application.
“We started with fifteen children and are now up to thirty,” said Mayes. She shared that they follow the cleaning protocol required by the government, as well as only six children in each classroom. Since they are housed in the church, they have plenty of space for spreading out. They also placed dividers in the gym for keeping kids safe from congregating in one space. Most rooms have their own restroom, which provides reassurance of keeping any spreading of germs to a minimum.
A shift in previous routines is keeping the daycare COVID-19-compliant. Naptime, which is a bit of a challenge, has been remedied by moving cots into each classroom for little ones to take their afternoon rest period. In the past, all children were together in one big room. Lunch is now eaten in each classroom instead of the cafeteria. Parents have to wait outside and call staff when they are there for drop-off or pick-up of their children. Each child has their temperature checked digitally before being allowed into the building.
Mayes has only been in her new position of administrator at Rainbow Daycare for just under a year. She came from another daycare with twelve years of experience. Pastor Rick Rufenacht says she is perfect for taking on this task of becoming a pandemic facility. “It was her idea. She came to us and presented the opportunity.”
Right now, Mayes has been able to keep all of her present employees and plans to hire three more. She worried about how these daycare workers were going to support their own families. She is pleased this certification gives continued employment for all of them.
Many parents have shared their appreciation because most had no other childcare options. First Church of God, however, now offers a safe place for kids. “As a church, we are a ministry and we try to meet the needs of the community. We touch lives and give the children a sense of calm and consistency,” said Mayes.
Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.