Chicago coronavirus: Chicago daycare navigates challenges of reopening during COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With Illinois reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic and recent unrest in Chicago, daycare providers are facing challenges even as they're excited to reopen their doors.

The owner of Smarty Pants Early Learning Center said the plywood on the outside of their location in Grand Boulevard may not be pretty, but it was necessary.

"As a black woman, I understand it all, but it was hard to watch," Daphne Williams said.

Williams said she was in front of her business with friends, staff and parents to protect it from looting along 47th Street. Now, as she prepares to remove the boards, she said the bigger challenge is opening a daycare that is safe and adheres to new post-coronavirus requirements from the state.

"You still have to have six feet, and you can't expect a 2-year-old to keep a mask on," she explained. "My tables that used to sit six, I can only sit two and a teacher now."

After being closed for nearly three months, Williams said she's spending thousands to buy more furniture, PPE, cleaning supplies and add staff to maintain social distance with little ones. But, she added, she is committed to reopen and inspire a new generation of learners.

"There are so many regulations," she said. "I need this to still be a happy experience, this is when a foundation is set and that love of learning, that's where we plant the seed."

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Rianna Harper said full-time working parents like she and her husband are eager for their toddler to return to Smarty Pants, but they also want it to be safe.

"I can't deny I still have fears because the virus hasn't gone away, there is still no treatment," she said.

Williams submitted her reopening plan to the state this week. She hopes to start on July 13 with just 10 students. She also said she realizes they will likely never get back to previous enrollment of 50.
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