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Mark Shepherd doesn’t blame the teachers at Primrose School of Cumming North who decided to self-quarantine. For the 20-30 percent of his staff who are staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, the owner of the childhood education provider told them their job will be waiting for them when they come back.
“I fully support any decision they make,” Shepherd said.
But Primrose School of Cumming North, on Matt Highway, isn’t like most childcare facilities in Georgia. That is to say, it’s not closed. By mid-April, 66 percent of facilities had shuttered during the outbreak, according to Shepherd, and the number increased by about 1-5 percent each week. Meanwhile, among private childcare facilities, Primrose School of Cumming North was in the top 5 percent for the number of its children still attending.
Thus Primrose’s remaining teachers became essential workers, providing care in an educational environment for parents who themselves are often essential workers and enduring the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 as it continued to spread throughout Georgia.
Shepherd put them at ease with enhanced sanitation methods and new safety precautions. To start, Primrose became stricter about children staying home if they showed signs of having a temperature. After kids were picked up during morning carpool, staff immediately took them to wash their hands. Shepherd divided kids up to ensure there were no more than 10 people per classroom and started disinfecting the facility on a nightly basis.
“If we were just bringing children into the building and not doing these enhanced sanitation and safety measures, I would be very uncomfortable,” Shepherd said.
The efforts allowed Primrose to remain open and provide an essential service, not just for parents but for kids, too.
“They still need to learn to count, learn their address, learn letters and everything to be prepared for school,” Shepherd said. He added, “Being in a home environment is completely different than being in a structured educational environment.”
In a post-pandemic world, Shepherd sees cleanliness becoming another major factor, along with safety and education, for parents when choosing a childcare facility.
“A lot of times you walk into a childcare facility and you can smell the diapers,” Shepherd said, “and I think [parents] will take that and perceive that as it’s not a healthy or safe place for a child in the future. Whereas in the old days they might have thought, ‘Well, yeah, that’s childcare.’”