Survey Results: How Childcare Centers are Operating in the ‘New Normal’

On May 12, 2020, we sent out a survey asking for centers to provide insight into how they were operating under the ‘new normal’. This included a series of questions based on if centers had reopened, never closed, or had begun their reopening plans. This article provides an overview of the 261 responses we received. 

A special thanks to all of the centers who participated in this survey. These insights are incredibly valuable as we as a childcare community manage through the many changes and challenges to come.

Of those we surveyed, 65.5% of centers were still closed, 10% of centers have reopened and 24.5% of centers never closed during the pandemic. Centers surveyed represented both single and multi-location centers. 70% of centers included in this survey were not current customers of HiMama.

The journey of reopening your center

We asked centers who reopened to share the challenges and lessons learned in their journey. 

How did you work with parents to prepare the children to come back?

In this open-ended question, 67% of respondents shared that they did this through persistent contact with their families using a variety of mediums including texts, phone, video calls, emails, and letters. A few respondents leveraged parent communication platforms to centralize this communication (like HiMama).  

When children came back did you feel that their development stalled?

58% of respondents stated that they felt like the development of their kiddos stayed on track. 27% of respondents stated that it stalled, and 15% stated that their development has regressed.

How did you prepare your staff for reopening?

  • 54% of respondents stated that they provided formal training for their staff on the new policies, procedures, etc. 
  • 19% of respondents communicated remotely about re-opening details but did not provide any interactive sessions (i.e. informal communication).  
  • 15% of respondents provided equipment but did not state that they provided any other training for support.

What the ‘new normal’ looks like for open centers

For centers that are open, we asked them a series of questions to describe how their centers have changed. This includes both centers who have reopened and centers that have been open throughout the pandemic. 

Are some children being kept at home by their parents as a precaution?

96% of centers who are open stated that parents are keeping kiddos at home. 64% of children on average are being kept at home by parents.

Is your center providing remote learning for students at home?

With children being kept at home, 48% of centers have implemented remote learning programs. Larger centers were more likely to be providing remote learning with 68% of multi-location centers providing remote learning.

How has drop-off/pick-up changed?

In this open ended question, most centers are following a similar process:

  • Parent Drop-Off/Pick-Up Outside: Parents drop off kiddos outside of the center and are not allowed to enter. Select centers listed they let parents enter either (a) staggered, or (b) parents have their own sign-in process.
  • Health Checks: Kiddos are checked by a member of staff to do a temperature check before they are allowed to enter. Many centers limit this intake to 1 staff member and ask additional questions to parents.
  • Sanitization Process: Once they have entered the building, children must wash their hands. Outside toys and shoes are most likely not allowed. Select centers also provide masks for children to wear.

Have you implemented social distancing in the classroom?

64% of open centers have implemented social distancing in the classroom. Social distancing measures are most likely to be implemented in single-location centers. 

Are your students or staff wearing masks?

50% of centers are not wearing masks, in 39% of centers the staff only is wearing masks and 11% of centers have both staff and children wearing masks. Mask usage varied depending on size of center (see breakdown below).  

Yes – staff and children5%17%0%
Yes – staff only42%43%24%

What other changes/policies has your center implemented?

This was an open-ended question where respondents gave a variety of answers. Trends included:

  • 59% of centers outlined cleaning processes and procedures the center had adopted. This included limiting certain types of toys (ex: plush toys, or limiting only to plastic), as well as the removal of items that could not be sanitized throughout the day (ex: sensory bins). 
  • 54% of centers have implemented multiple ‘health checks’ (e.g. taking a temperature) and ‘hand washing procedures’ throughout the day, and hand washing happening on a set schedule (ex: every hour). 
  • 17% of centers have implemented smaller class sizes. Most are limited to 10 children per classroom max. Some centers mentioned that they have not implemented this yet since they don’t have enough children attending. 

What is your biggest challenge?

This was also an open-ended question. Trends here included:

  • 31% of centers mentioned that they were concerned about how the business would continue to run financially due to less children attending, and higher costs with more staff needed.
  • 25% of centers mentioned that getting children to come back is their biggest challenge as parents are still worried about safety and keeping the children home.
  • 15% are worried about having enough staff due to having lost staff from downsizing during the pandemic, and needing more staff than before due to new ratio guidelines.
  • 12% of centers are finding it challenging to access the PPE they require.

Note: this is based on mentions within the open-ended responses so one response could potentially fall in multiple categories above.

What advice would you give a center who is reopening?

General sentiment was around ensuring communication and collaboration with your staff is key. Other sentiments were to make sure you have a solid plan, communicate a lot, and to take it as slow as you need to. 

Here are a few of the pieces of advice shared:

Don’t stress too much about the number of children you will have.  Once open you will probably fill quickly.

Establish guidelines and communicate them to your parents before reopening.  Communicate your philosophy on keeping your childcare community healthy and safe.

Have open communication with staff and families about the new policies and how they will be implemented.  Have a schedule that assigns jobs for cleaning/disinfecting of all classrooms and surfaces.

Meeting with your staff, to give them guidance on how reopening will look like. It takes time to get into a [routine] that works and it’s okay if things don’t go as planned. We take things step by step.

Closed Centers: What their reopening plans look like

Of the centers who were still closed, we asked them about their current plans for reopening. This included 7% of centers planning to reopen in the next 1-2 weeks, 51% in the next 3-6 weeks, and 42% in 6+ weeks.

How are you preparing your staff for reopening?

This was an open-ended question. Trends here included:

  • 28% of centers have not thought about how they are going to prepare their staff for reopening. Many of these are waiting for guidelines from their local government.
  • 29% of centers are focusing on writing out policies and guidelines as a first step for their staff. This includes staff policies around health checks, and new procedures the staff will need to follow in the classroom related to health checks, sanitization procedures, etc.
  • 27% of centers have implemented formal training with their staff. These trainings are primarily being done virtually to bring them up to speed with all of these changes. 
  • 15% are providing informal communication with their staff (ex: text messages) about what’s going on, but have not done anything formal yet. 

Note: this is based on mentions within the open-ended responses so one response could potentially fall in multiple categories above.

What changes/policies are you planning on implementing when you reopen?

This was an open-ended question. The most popular topics mentioned were:

  • 31% of centers mentioned how they will be changing the pick-up/drop-off process to be similar to the process outlined by the open centers. 
  • 31% of centers mentioned how they are implementing health checks in the classroom during the day for both the staff and students.
  • 26% of centers stated that they do not know what they are going to do and are waiting for government guidelines.

Note: this is based on mentions within the open ended responses so one response could potentially fall in multiple categories above.

What is your biggest challenge?

This was an open-ended question. Responses here were very spread out across various topics including:

  • 17% mentioned they were concerned about attendance (i.e. when they reopen the kids don’t come back).
  • 15% mentioned concern about the safety of both the children and the staff.
  • 15% were concerned about not having enough staff when they reopen.
  • 13% are concerned about how to survive this financially.
  • 13% are worried about how to implement all of the new guidelines.
  • 13% are challenged by how to make young children socially distance.

Note: this is based on mentions within the open-ended responses so one response could potentially fall in multiple categories above.

The new challenges ahead

In putting together these survey results, it’s certain that childcare has a lot of change and challenges in the months ahead. Childcare will change – however, I am more confident than ever in the resilience, passion, and creativity within the childcare community. We’ve got this.

If you’re at a center looking to connect with other Directors, Owners, or Teachers please feel free to join our Slack Community.

We’ll be putting together a follow-up survey in a few weeks to see if any of these trends change. Stay tuned.

Melissa Wood

Melissa is the VP of Marketing at HiMama with a passion for education and building businesses that create a strong social impact. A proud working mama, she enjoys spending her weekends cooking up a storm or going on a road trip with her daughter, husband and dog.