BAR HARBOR —Kids’ Corner will be hosting a one-day online fundraiser on Feb. 23 to support continued efforts to offer programs for children ages 6 weeks to kindergarten. The fundraiser will kick off at 8 a.m. and end at 11:59 p.m.
As one of only five childcare facilities on Mount Desert Island, Kids’ Corner is part of an industry that was struggling even before the COVID-19 crisis hit. Now that the pandemic is an everyday norm, its future is uncertain, according to a news release from the organization.
In April of 2020, the Center for Law and Social Policy reported that the childcare industry will need about $10 billion per month in government support to survive the pandemic. The National Association for the Education of Young Children states that 40 percent of childcare providers will soon close permanently without support from the government. Given that the average waitlist in the U.S. for childcare is between 18 and 24 months, the growing need for care and the reduction in availability means a crisis for working parents.
Even before the pandemic, profit margins for childcare centers were tight, teachers were underpaid and it took every dollar from every available enrollment slot to keep doors open. With the added burden of additional cleaning costs, lower enrollment and the purchase of additional personal protective equipment, it’s almost impossible to get by.
An additional challenge faced by most centers, including Kids’ Corner, is staffing. Traditionally, most early childhood educators make minimum wage. The pandemic created a staffing crisis when some veteran teachers chose to resign to care for their own school-age children during school closures.
Enrollment at Kids’ Corner has been lower since June when it reopened after its initial closure in March of 2020. This is mainly due to the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control, but also has to do with staffing challenges. Like other centers across the country, it is a balance of meeting the standard for the student–to–staff ratios while keeping each room to a lower number of total occupants to allow for social distancing. Budgets don’t allow for centers to hire qualified candidates at competitive rates while also operating with reduced enrollment. There have been shorter-term closures at Kids’ Corner since June when there was no additional staff to call on to remain open while teachers took a sick or personal day or awaited COVID-19 test results after possible exposure.
“It is simply more economical for parents to stay home rather than hire someone to cover the time needed for remote learning or sporadic school schedules due to COVID spikes,” said Lori Krupke, director at Kids’ Corner.
Despite these challenges, Kids’ Corner is still committed to providing a safe, reliable environment and a place where children of various backgrounds and with different needs can meet, play and learn together.
“Many community members have told me that the highlight of their day is driving by the center and seeing happy faces and hearing the carefree laughter of the children playing outside,” said Jenna Horton, a Kids’ Corner board member and parent of a current student. “Somehow, for a moment, they’ve forgotten there’s a pandemic and they smile. This place is important to so many people.”
You can support the Kids’ Corner’s fundraiser by visiting kidscornerbarharbor.org. Mail-in donations will also be accepted, with checks made payable to Kids’ Corner, at 81 Mount Desert St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609.