Portsmouth child care centers deal with the new normal

Countryside Children’s Center posts sing-alongs, story times on Facebook

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PORTSMOUTH — It’s just before noon last Tuesday, and Countryside Children’s Center is getting ready to host circle time. 

On the docket for the day is a sing-a-long to the months of the year and the days of the week, as well as a reading from the book, “Ten Lucky Leprechauns.”

Only instead of joining in at the daycare itself, children are experiencing circle time virtually, through a video posted on Facebook. 

Countryside was just one of many daycare centers asked by Gov. Gina Raimondo last Sunday to close for the week in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Just the day before, owner Lori Corbishley had met with her director and assistant director Karen Davis and Sara Corbishley-Brown to discuss how to ensure a safe and healthy environment for the 110 infant-to-pre-K children they service daily.

“It’s a drag, but we’re not any worse off than anybody else,” Ms. Corbishley said. 

In some ways, she considers them lucky; all of their kids have at least one parent with the ability to work from home, and all of their 37 staff were able to get set up with unemployment. Still, there are a number of challenges the daycare must face, such as navigating their “pay regardless of attendance” tuition policy with families in the wake of uncharted territory. 

Plus, there is the concern for when the children do eventually come back, and how their behavior will be now that their schedules and routines have been uprooted for a significant amount of time. 

“It’s kind of like the beginning of the school year all over again,” Ms. Corbishley said. 

While Countryside is anticipating the mandate go on longer, Ms. Corbishley said she is focusing on one day at a time; they will work on cleaning and organizing the daycare, while continuing to post videos on Facebook to provide some normalcy for the children. 

“We’re just trying to go with the flow and stay positive,” she said, “and remember we’re all in this together.”

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