Day cares challenged, but stay open for now

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Kid City USA teacher Rachel Breitwieser, right, helps Grant Mehringer, 6, as Mya Hidalgo, 9, left, and Landon Martindale, 9, all of Jasper, work on their e-learning activities at the day care in Jasper on Thursday. Despite growing COVID-19 concerns, Kid City USA is still up and running, but staff and students have taken extra precautions, such as regularly washing hands and using hand sanitizer, to help stop the spread of germs.


While normal daily operations grind to a halt in school buildings and at businesses around Indiana, one place where it’s business as usual is day care facilities.

So far, day care facilities have not been called on to cancel, so local childcare providers are keeping their doors open and welcoming children into their care each day, albeit with more sanitizing and e-learning than usual.

At Kid City USA in Jasper, school-aged children already enrolled in the day care’s after-school program have been spending all day at the facility and completing their e-learning assignments while there.

“We kind of run it like a school day for them,” co-owner Cindy Nicholson said.

Nicholson said Kid City USA is almost full, but they do have room for a few more school-aged children if parents are still looking for childcare while school is out. They are also looking at expanding the school-age program while school is out, since they recently opened a second location.

“We are willing to enroll students — whether it be permanent or temporary due to COVID-19 — to help with childcare that families may need during this unplanned situation,” co-owner Jenny Martindale said.

Amelia Nealy, 2, of Jasper, washes her hands as Weston Smith, 2, of Celestine, and Charlotte Goeppner, 2, of Jasper, wait for their turn at Kid City USA in Jasper on Thursday.

HUMmingbird Day Care Ministry in Holland also has room for children age 3 and older.

At A Kid’s Place in Huntingburg, childcare for younger children is operating as usual, but owner Deanna Vonderheide said she’ll have to cancel the school-age program after this week. Usually she runs the school-age program out of Huntingburg Elementary, but with school closed, that’s not an option. Since she’s been unable to find a long-term alternative location, she decided to cancel it. While canceling the program will have a financial impact, Vonderheide said she doesn’t expect it to be devastating. Her programs for younger children are still full.

“There are a few parents who are keeping their children at home, but most of them are here,” Vonderheide said.

Nancy Hotz runs a licensed childcare service out of her Jasper home. With school out, she’s seen an increase in the number of children she watches each day, as older siblings come to her home with their younger siblings.

“It feels like summer, except for the e-learning aspect,” Hotz said.

Hotz said she does have room for more kiddos, though they have to be able to walk. Parents can contact her through Facebook for more information.

Renli Terwiske, 3, of Jasper, left, Krislee Schurz, 3, of Huntingburg, Kid City USA teacher Bailey Schmitt, Weston Smith, 2, of Celestine, and Paislee Yates, 3, of Jasper, play on the floor together at the day care in Jasper on Thursday.

Although day cares have been able to stay open, they have had to increase their cleaning measures and take extra precautions to ensure health. At A Kid’s Place, Vonderheide purchased a hospital-grade cleaner to use rather than the usual Lysol. Hotz has put away certain toys — such as the play food — and meets parents at the door rather than having them come inside.

Vonderheide compared the current situation day cares face to a double-edged sword.

“We want to stay open, but we want our people to stay healthy,” Vonderheide said.

Hotz said it’s like operating in a grey area because she knows day cares could be required to close at any time, just like schools. She’s already seeing other states mandating their day cares close, she said.

Kid City USA has also implemented additional cleaning measures, including giving children soap when they arrive each day and sending them to wash their hands. Parents and guests also are not allowed past the lobby.

In the event that day care facilities are closed, several community members have volunteered to baby-sit. Northeast Dubois High School social worker Paige Mundy put together a list of students and community members who are available to baby-sit. Parents can contact her at to request the list.

Easton Adcock, 4, of Huntingburg, left, Weston Fromme, 4, of Jasper, Micah Ward, 5, of Jasper, Liam Reed, 4, of French Lick, and Kynslee Tobin, 4, of St. Anthony, Kid City USA Pre-K teacher Bethany Dodd, and Claire Frick, 4, of Huntingburg, play Uno together at the day care in Jasper on Thursday.

Other community members have posted to Facebook offering to baby-sit. Cassie Hoffman of Huntingburg is among them. As a stay-at-home mom, Hoffman said she wanted to offer assistance to parents who aren’t able to stay home with their children like she can with hers.

“I couldn’t imagine being a parent and working, then having them shut down school,” Hoffman said.

She has a kindergartner and a third-grader, so she’s figuring out the e-learning system, and is willing to help any kids she baby-sits with their e-learning as well.

So far, she said, no one has contacted her, but can be contacted through Facebook if parents need her.

When looking for a baby sitter, Safe Sitter — a national nonprofit that offers baby sitter training classes and resources to help parents prepare their children to stay home alone or watch younger siblings — suggests going through an interview process and asking for references. Things to ask during a baby sitter interview include the sitter’s age and experience, what training they have had and a series of what-if scenarios. Safe Sitter also suggests negotiating payment before hiring the sitter.

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