Enfield day care closure highlights scarcity of child care options in the Upper Valley

  • Jennifer Vella, of Lebanon, waits for a staff member of Kidsview Academy Preschool and Daycare to retrieve her child’s artwork from the closed daycare Saturday, May 9, 2020. The childcare center closed in mid-March, and recently announced it will not reopen as COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to lift. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Kidsview Academy Preschool and Daycare teachers Rachel Collins, left, and Mia Ribeiro, take the opportunity to say hello to Matthew Stanton, 4, of Lebanon, as he and his dad Richard Stanton came to the closed childcare center to pick up his belongings in Enfield, N.H., Saturday, May 9, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Stephanie Cross, former director of Kidsview Academy Preschool and Daycare, left, helps Julie Lamarche, of Grantham, right, gather her daughter’s belongings in Enfield, N.H., Saturday, May 9, 2020. Cross and other staff of the daycare opened up for three hours Saturday to allow parents of their students to retrieve belongings left when they closed. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • A teddy bear is left in a child’s cubby at Kidsview Academy Preschool and Daycare in Enfield, N.H., Saturday, May 9, 2020. The childcare center closed in mid-March and will not reopen. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/9/2020 9:08:19 PM
Modified: 5/9/2020 9:08:14 PM

ENFIELD — As COVID-19 restrictions gradually lift across the Twin States, many workers are preparing to return to their jobs. For those with children, however, their return may hinge on finding child care that matches their needs and their ability to pay.

Among those uncertain how their child care needs will be met are the families of 45 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 8 years who relied on Kidsview Academy Preschool & Daycare that also operated an after-school program. The Enfield center closed in mid-March due to the pandemic and Kidsview staff informed families earlier this month that the center would not be reopening.

“We definitely have a shortage (of child care spots) as it is in this area,” said Erin Martin, whose 3½-year-old son Desmond had attended Kidsview since he was 12 weeks old. “It’s not an ideal situation, that is for sure.”

Before the pandemic, the Upper Valley was short as many as 2,000 licensed child care spots, according to a 2018 report from the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Kidsview’s closing adds to the demand. It’s not yet clear whether the closing indicates the direction of the industry or what it might mean for other parents trying to get back to work.

In an email, Kidsview’s owner Ruben Ramirez declined to comment on what led to the center’s closing.

Broadly, he said, “We are seeing a troubling trend, and it just hasn’t helped that the funding process was stymied from the beginning. It’s very upsetting to see big businesses get a loan while we struggled and ended up closing.”

In an effort to shore up the child care industry, the Upper Valley’s Early Care and Education Association has secured funding through the Couch Family Foundation to hire financial consultants to assist the region’s child care providers as they work to manage the impact of the pandemic, said Amy Brooks, the association’s director.

“Of the 15 centers that we’ve engaged, none of them truly know how long they can go like this,” Brooks said.

Child care providers often face tight margins, struggling to pay workers a fair wage and charge families a price they can afford. Families at Kidsview were paying roughly $230 to $270 per week, depending on the age of the child, families said. But some centers in the Upper Valley charge well over $300 per week.

Sarah Bolander got at least a temporary lifeline since Kidsview closed.

As an occupational therapist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, she qualifies for essential child care at the on-site child care center for her two children, 3-year-old Ben and 16-month-old Zach. But it’s not long-term solution; once all workers get back on the job, the DHMC facility won’t have room for the Bolanders, who live in Canaan.

It’s also difficult for the Bolanders to swing the $65-per-day per child cost of the center at DHMC, Bolander said. For now, her husband, Richard, will take off Tuesdays and Thursdays from his job as a research engineer and data scientist for Lebanon-based Simbex.

“We can make it work for a short period of time,” Bolander said.

The Bolanders have come together with other parents in hopes of establishing a nonprofit child care center that would operate in Kidsview’s High Street location. But a number of things are still up in the air, including getting a rental agreement with Ramirez and sorting out which of the dozen or so staff members, who were laid off in March, are still available and want to come back.

“We really just need this to work,” Bolander said.

As for Martin, an Enfield resident and an engineer for the Lebanon-based Hypertherm, she and her husband, Brian, are “in limbo right now” as they sort out their child care options, she said. When she spoke Friday, she was one day past the due date for her second child, for whom she will also need to find care before she returns to work after maternity leave.

Brian is on unpaid leave from his job at FedEx because the couple was worried he might pick up the virus at work, potentially putting their new baby at risk of contracting COVID-19. Brian’s presence at home has allowed Martin to continue to work remotely until she begins her maternity leave.

While the Martins have their “fingers crossed” that the center will be able to reopen as a nonprofit, they are also looking at the possibility that Brian may not be able to return to work.

“Neither of us really wants that,” Martin said.

On Saturday morning, three former staff members opened Kidsview so families could pick up their children’s artwork, clothing and books.

Katie Martin’s 5-year-old son Max climbed on a kid-sized treadmill and built a tower with magnetic blocks, as Martin, a hospice social worker, and her husband, Chris, who has been furloughed from his job at a food warehouse, collected things Max and his 2-year-old brother Thomas had left behind. Katie Martin is not related to Erin Martin.

As Max, who has been attending Kidsview since he was a baby, played, his mother told him that it might be the last time he sees the inside of the center. He will be entering kindergarten in the fall. In years past, Max has seen older kids celebrate their “graduation” from Kidsview.

“He was looking forward to his own,” Katie Martin said.

The group working to organize the nonprofit can be reached at enfieldnonprofitdaycare@gmail.com. In addition, the town of Canaan is conducting a survey to connect families in need of child care with providers. The survey for those in need of care is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Z28SMJF and the survey for providers is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZWQJ8MW.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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