Duval County day cares face teacher shortage amid pandemic


Duval County child care centers are down about 30-40% of teachers, which is about two to three teachers per center.

DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. — Child care centers in Duval County are facing a new crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Children may be going back to day care, but providers are down a significant number of teachers.

This week, local mother Fredrica Wallace had to pull her 4-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son Mason from the daycare he loved.

“He looks forward going there just to see that teacher,” she explained. “So, taking him out, it hurts me. It really did.”

Wallace’s husband is deployed overseas and she had to get off work early in order to pick her children up because the provider reduced its hours during the pandemic.

“I was losing hours, but at the same time I have to pay them their full rate,” Wallace said. “So, it gets expensive.”

President and CEO of Early Learning Coalition of Duval Denise Marzulo said only a few local day cares were forced to close for good due to the pandemic. She added that others survived with help from the Department of Education and the Office of Early Learning who gave CARES funding to providers and families in need.

RELATED: The Child Care Crisis: Florida predicted to be at risk to lose more than half of its daycare slots amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Now, child care center enrollment numbers are going back up. For example, more than 7,000 children are back in the Voluntary Pre-kindergarten Program, which is about 75-80% of how many children they normally enroll. 

“In the month of January we had a significant increase, the enrollment increased by 800 children,” Marzulo said.

However, there’s not enough teachers to meet the demand.

“Originally, attendance was low, centers were closing. So, centers had to either furlough their teachers or couldn’t pay them as much,” she explained. “And now, they’re having a really hard time hiring teachers – not only the high-quality, qualified teachers, but just teachers in general.”

According to Marzulo, Duval County child care centers are down about 30-40% of teachers, which is about two to three teachers per center.

The teacher shortage is why some day cares can’t go back to normal hours, she said, and are even having to turn away children due to the smaller COVID-19 pandemic ratios they have to comply with.

Marzulo added that fees remain the same despite these changes, because it’s the cost to operate and the price of some supplies child care centers need, such as cleaning products, have gone up.

“They’re really, really struggling – our providers,” she said. “Unfortunately, the highest cost of care is infants, because the ratio is one teacher to four infants. So, a lot of centers are having to close down their infant room in order to have the teachers work with some of the older age groups.”

Now that child care workers are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine at select sites in Florida, Marzulo hopes teachers will be more comfortable returning to work and others will consider training to become one.

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