Sara's Early Learning Coalition story
Child care centers have struggled mightily during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some had to let go of staff. Some temporarily closed. Some may never turn on their lights again.
Central Baptist Preschool in West Palm Beach has survived. Two big reasons why — the support of the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County and a decision by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County.
Early in the pandemic, CSC approved continuing to fund $29 million in child care scholarships based on schools’ enrollment numbers as of March 16. That meant child care centers continued to receive the scholarships distributed by ELC regardless of what happened.
Sara Giannetti, director of Central Baptist Preschool, explained why that mattered and what the past seven months have been like:
“Those first few weeks (into the pandemic) were pretty scary. We had some parents who pulled out right away. Then we ended up closing for the first two weeks of April, which at the time was thought to be the peak in the numbers. We did a deep cleaning of the school and we did some minor repairs and maintenance. When we re-opened, we were at our lowest attendance that we’ve had in at least 10 years.
“We did not apply for a PPP (federal Paycheck Protection Program) loan because we are a non-profit. We rely strictly on tuition from parents and ELC.
“When we got the e-mail from ELC that we would be paid based on enrollment and not attendance… I started crying. I started crying and called the owner. I told him and he could not believe it. It was just such a blessing. It helped us tremendously.
“Every month, we would get an e-mail updating us. Every time we got those e-mails I was in tears.
“After we received some funding from ELC, we were able to pay our staff for the rest of their hours from when we were closed. ELC also provided a way for our teachers to take professional training and get paid for it. That was a huge help for our teachers.
“We have at least 10 parent — if not more — receiving scholarships for essential workers (funded by CSC and distributed by ELC). We had many parents tell us how grateful they were that we continued to stay open. If we weren’t open, they wouldn’t be able to go to work.
“At least four different times, the most recent time being October 22, we were able to pick up supplies from ELC. They provided us with gloves, tissues, masks. We got 15 pairs of headphones for our virtual students and they were so excited because we have trouble with that every day with their headphones working.
“When we needed supplies, ELC sent out a survey and we were able to pick them up. We got cleaning supplies at a time when you couldn’t find cleaning supplies anywhere. It was a tremendous, tremendous blessing.
“ELC has been nothing short of amazing. To know that for several months we would be paid based on enrollment and not attendance was a lifesaver. It was probably the difference between us staying open and having to close.”
About Healthy, Safe, Strong Stories
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County continues to serve local children and families with the same mission that’s motivated us since 1986: to keep our county’s children healthy, safe and strong. This #HealthySafeStrong series highlights the vital work our providers are doing, and reminds Palm Beach County families that Children’s Services Council is here for you. To contact Children’s Services Council, please click here.