By Jerry Masek
“If Ohio is going back to work, we need child care.”
That opinion, shared by many, is painfully clear to Horizon Education Centers Executive Director David Smith.
Horizon operates 12 facilities, including one next to the Triskett Rapid Station in West Park.
Horizon spent $2.7 million to build that center. It opened in May 2019, with a full capacity of 210 students. Within a year, it served 160 students each day. The site is popular with commuters who can drop off their children before riding the Rapid to jobs Downtown and in University Circle.
When COVID-19 hit…
Like much of Ohio, the center closed in mid-March. When it reopened in June, the daily capacity was capped at 68 children via state restrictions.
The children are there but the revenue is not enough to cover expenses.
“It’s like we are selling $5 bills for $4 each,” Smith said. “We are losing about $10,00 each month. The challenge is the same for all 12 facilities. We may have to temporarily shut down the Triskett center again.”
Where did the other students go?
Smith said many parents found alternative care, such as high school students or older siblings home for the summer. A survey found that 70-percent of parents are single heads of their household. The survey also showed that 80-percent of parents who continue to use Horizon are “essential workers,” with jobs in grocery stores, transportation and health care.
Even if state restrictions are lifted, the classrooms may be hard to fill right away, Smith says. Many parents have a fear of COVID and most already have made alternative plans for the summer. When schools re-open, the need for Horizon centers will increase.
More state aid would help Horizon stay open until fall. Horizon has received some federal aid, but not nearly enough.
“If Ohio could lift its group size restrictions, it would give us a fighting chance, “Smith said. “If Ohio is going back to work, we need child care.”