As the COVID-19 pandemic turns a corner, early childhood centers are not full despite massive state investments

Fairfield

STAMFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many daycare centers struggled to stay open.

But one Stamford organization did.

The Children’s Learning Centers (CLC) is one of the largest providers in the state. This center never closed, and parents working in healthcare had a safe space for infants and toddlers.

Yet now some 18 months later, they are only 75% full.

“We’re under-enrolled, that is a current issue across the state,” said Marc Jaffe, the CEO of Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County.

3% of childcare centers didn’t survive the pandemic.

Governor Ned Lamont toured this Stamford facility and conceded that workers aren’t returning to the office.

“I think there’s some nervousness on the part of the parents and we have to get more daycare workers back in the game,” Lamont said.

The state provided $1.2 million in federal funding, part of a $300 million investment in affordable early childhood programs statewide.

State Representative Cory Paris, a Democrat who represents Stamford, says it’s a bipartisan effort.

“The returns will outweigh the cost,” Paris said.

State Senator Ryan Fazio, a Republican also representing the state’s second-largest city, agrees.

“We want to improve access and affordability,” Fazio said.

Lamont is looking at universal Pre-K and its economic effect moving forward.

Stamford Mayor David Martin supports the effort.

“This is an investment that works for America, that provides for children an opportunity in their life that they wouldn’t have any other way,” Martin said.

Meanwhile, Lamont admits his vaccine mandate for educators is not the most popular thing.

“You look at states where teachers weren’t vaccinated and not wearing masks in the schools and thousands upon thousands of kids are not able to go to school because they’re in semi-perpetual quarantine and that’s not the true state of Connecticut,” Lamont said.

At CLC, 85% of the staff is vaccinated. The others have religious concerns or are skeptical of the science.

“We’re addressing that as best as we can,” Jaffe said.

Despite some vaccine hesitancy among staff in the 53 classrooms over the eight centers in the CLC organization, there have been no cases of COVID-19.

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