Valley preschools impacted by state restrictions

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- The future for many of the Valley's littlest learners is now in limbo.

Preschools that are part of the public school system are required to provide remote learning only until their counties are off the state's COVID-19 monitoring list for at least two weeks.

"It is very challenging to do distance learning with young children for a number of reasons. One is because they are looking at a screen, and two, we know that children cannot and should not be expected to stay still for long periods of time," says Rosa Barragan, the Director of Early Education Support Programs for the Merced County Office of Education.

Her team has been collaborating with a variety of early childhood providers to help them through these challenging times.

They host weekly Zoom meetings to share strategies and have also secured supplies for facilities that are allowed to stay open, such as Bear Country Preschool and After School Program in Merced.

The private center serves children ages two to twelve and has implemented a variety of safety measures, from extra sanitization to health screenings to social distancing.

Staff member Shania Dejarnett says, "One of the main things we're doing is not allowing parents into the building and taking the precautions outside rather than having them in the building."

Owner Regina Wolf says she's received an influx of inquiries from parents who suddenly need childcare because their schools are not allowed to hold in-person classes, and her center is already a lifeline for many essential workers.

"They are parents who are working in our gas stations, in our hospitals, for the social services department. They're parents who are bus drivers, doing transportation so without us they couldn't go to work," says Wolf.

To help meet the extra demand, MCOE is working with the state to get more local residents licensed as childcare providers.

Barragan explains, "We're hoping that we can get more moms, dads, people who are staying home to open a family childcare home so we can have enough capacity to help our parents go back to work."

Officials say it typically takes about 90 days to get a home childcare license, and there are several requirements. You can learn more about the process here.

MCOE also has resources for parents who need help finding and/or paying for childcare.

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