Essential but still closed, PC Tots faces an uncertain future
As Summit County officials work toward determining when it’s safe to relax the stay-at-home order and allow businesses to reopen in a limited capacity, some businesses, considered essential, were never required to close at all.
One such category is child care, but for PC Tots, a nonprofit that serves dozens of families in the Park City area, numerous reasons have contributed to a decision to close for now. Carol Loomis, president of PC Tots’ board of directors, said those factors range from the complicated to the very simple.
“The foremost thing is that we can’t find a reliable supply chain for sanitizing products, which is critical for daycare any day of the week, never mind the coronavirus,” she said. “Until we can get sanitizing products, it isn’t safe to open.”
Loomis said the demand isn’t there, either.
“Even if we did open our doors, right now we don’t know how many parents would send their kids back,” she said. “I’ll tell you, they are not clamoring. There’s just so much uncertainty right now. They’ve cobbled together other arrangements for their kids.”
One other obvious concern, Loomis said, is controlling the behavior of a bunch of toddlers.
“Little children are not social distancers,” she said. “There’s not really a way to manage that. You’d spend your whole day trying to keep them apart.”
PC Tots closed its doors March 16, two days after health officials publicized the first local instance of community spread of the virus. That day, out of the usual 114 children, only 26 showed up.
“We had 20 teachers come into work, but they didn’t want to be there, either,” Loomis said. “They were afraid of the virus. We closed the next day.”
PC Tots furloughed 25 teachers, Loomis said, and began to evaluate what it would take to reopen.
The child care nonprofit operates on tight margins even in the best of times. Loomis said in order to fulfill the mission of providing affordable daycare to the entire community, the organization has had to raise about $250,000 a year. It’s had the support of the Park City government and of Vail Resorts’ EpicPromise program in the past, but now, with both the city and the ski resort operator facing financial concerns of their own, Loomis said that further support might not be coming in the near future.
“We’re worried that donor support is going to dry up,” she said.
Loomis said PC Tots has begun polling teachers and parents to see who is available to return and who is interested in bringing their kids back. The nonprofit is researching other child care centers around the country to see if there is anything to take away, anything it might do to reopen safely.
“The problem right now is that the things that make it safer also make it much more expensive,” she said. “The daycares that are open now have had to drop their numbers dramatically. We would have to reduce to less than half the kids we normally serve.”
Even closed, PC Tots has bills to pay. It operates two facilities, with mortgage and rent due every month. Loomis said the center has every intention of reopening when it is safe to do so, but there’s no way of knowing when that will be.
“To stay alive will be a challenge,” she said. “We certainly hope we won’t have to close, but I don’t know.”
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