MARSHALL, Texas (KSLA) — When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the immediate reopening of childcare centers statewide Monday, it proved a bit confusing to some people.
That’s because most, if not nearly all, daycare centers have been open throughout much of the COVID-19 crisis.
There were limits on how many children could be in a daycare, for example.
But now many of those restrictions have been lifted.
That means all kids can begin going back to daycare.
All this is great news for parents who rely on these childcare centers so they can go back to work full time.
Wee Care Development Center was closed for a month before reopening on a limited basis in late April.
So word of Texas daycare centers being allowed to fully reopen immediately came as music to the ears of so many working parents who bring their children to the Marshall, Texas, facility.
“Yes! Thank God,” said Victoria Crain, of Marshall.
For Crain and other parents, there’s a huge sense of relief that some semblance of normalcy is returning after the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic two months ago.
“It was a lot of weight on my shoulders having to continue to go to work," Crain said. "I’ve worked all through the COVID crisis. So it’s been pretty dramatic.
"But now everything’s getting back to normal. It feels great, really. Huge weight off my shoulders.”
Three of Crain’s children attend Wee Care Development Center. They have been among the 20 or so children allowed to attend during the limited service provided by the daycare.
Starting next week, Wee Care Development Center will return to full enrollment, which typically is 76 children.
Crain explained that while daycare reopenings solve one big problem for parents like her, there’s still another potential challenge looming on the horizon for later this year.
“The school, the MISD, is shut down for the rest of the year. And we’re not really sure when they’re going back. So that’s kind of overwhelming also,” she said with a nervous laugh.
And It wasn’t long before we met Crain’s 4-year-old daughter, Abigail, an apparent future broadcaster who appeared happy to be there.
And Abigail wasn't shy about asking for what she wanted from us.
Abigail Duteau: "Can I have the microphone?"
Reporter: "You want the microphone?"
Abigail Duteau: "Yes."
Reporter: "Have you ever held a microphone before?"
Abigail Duteau: "Yes."
Abigail grabbed the mic before saying in a loud voice, "thank you,' not knowing her early exit from daycare actually meant a trip to the dentist was in her immediate future.
The full reopening of child care centers is welcome news to owners, employees and parents alike.
It effectively ends two months of uncertainty.
And Tuesday marked a big day for Wee Care Development Center owner Niki Hollins.
“I was like, 'Oh yay! We get, more of our babies can come back now, because we’ve been essential workers only.”
In fact, for the first month, Hollins said they had shut their doors completely while other centers stayed open with restrictions.
"Everybody was pretty understanding about the steps we took to close. They understood the children's safety is the top priority."
By late April, they partially reopened with 20 or so kids allowed back into her daycare - with parents of essential workers.
A new survey shows about half of childcare centers and 60 percent of home daycares that have closed still charged parents full tuition, and another 22 percent are offering reduced tuition.
Hollins said that was not the case at Wee Care Development Center.
“No, we did not charge our parents. I just couldn’t see, half of them might have been laid off. I just couldn’t sleep knowing, ‘OK, well you still have to pay for your spot’.”
She also kept her 10 employees on full time, even while closed.
Donna Chenault said she and the other workers are very grateful to Hollins.
“When a job closes down for something like this, usually you’re off work and you go to unemployment. But she kept us on payroll. She gave us stuff to do.
"We came here, we volunteered, we painted. We did everything and she kept paying us. And that was a real big blessing for a lot of us here.”
Now, all the 76 children who attend Wee Care Development Center can return starting next week.
But there still are tough restrictions.
Daycares still need to abide by social distancing and other safety measures, like a ratio of 10 children per instructor at most.