Iowa City daycares prepare for an uncertain fall semester

Many daycares are facing difficult financial times and an uncertain fall as the coronavirus continues to impact operations.


Hannah Kinson

Kiddie Konnection Daycare is seen on Monday, July 27, 2020 on Muscatine Ave. in Iowa City. (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan)

Cole Krutzfield, News Reporter

Several daycares and child care centers in Iowa are finding it harder to operate, with fewer children to look after and more safety precautions to follow.

Vicki Brandenburg, owner and director of Lionheart Early Learning in Iowa City, said she thinks there is a chance that some daycare centers won’t make it through the pandemic.

“What people don’t realize is that many daycares operate on very small profit margins, and now with everything going on, some places are facing the harsh reality of losing money and even closing,” she said.

Brandenburg said she believes the reason this has become a problem for so many daycares is due to the changes many have had to implement in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Many daycares have taken steps to make sure they stay sanitized, including Handicare in Coralville.

Laura Lage, director of Handicare, said that the daycare has made several changes in its daily operations.

“We now eat in our classrooms, whereas we used to do family style dining in a large group setting, and the teachers served the meals instead of children learning to do it themselves, and we sanitize the toys multiple times per day while in the past this was only done twice per day,” she said.

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Debbie Brandt, owner and director of Kiddie Konnection in Iowa City, said she also made some health and safety changes to her daycare.

“Our staff are required to wear masks or shields, the children and staff have to have their temperatures taken twice daily, the children’s parents are not allowed into the building, and all parents must wear a mask upon drop off and pick up,” Brandt said.

Brandenburg said she has seen a 75-percent decrease in the number of children that go to Lionheart Early Learning since March. While numbers are slowly increasing, Brandenburg said she does not plan to have more than 75 percent of the daycare’s capacity filled.

The pandemic has also required her to change her hiring practices, Brandenburg added.

“Normally we hire part-time workers who are usually students at the University of Iowa,” she said. “Unfortunately, however, with so much uncertainty we now are only hiring people that are able and willing to work full time.”

Brandenburg said this change in hiring standards has added to the financial hardship on her business.

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ order that K-12 schools in the state must meet in person for at least half of their core classes has also added to the uncertainty surrounding daycares.

“First, Iowa City schools decided that they were going to be online so we prepared for that, but then the governor declared that schools must have at least some in-person teaching, so now we’re just waiting to see what Iowa City schools do,” Brandenburg said.