LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - With thousands of New Mexico students out of school for weeks, daycare providers must make the difficult decision to continue to serve families or close their doors in fear of the coronavirus.
Alpha School was one of the first childcare providers to temporarily close this week in Las Cruces.
"I understand that people have to go to work, but out of respect for our teachers, our families and especially our grandparents, it was the only decision that we needed to make," said Ray Jaramillo, the daycare's director.
"I feel like it's my duty to stay open and help in any way I can," said Nannette Boyce, who has owned Discovery Child Development Centers since 1984. "A lot of parents have the flexibility to stay home, but some don't."
Boyce told ABC-7 she is not allowing any outside visitors to come in contact with the children. She also said her staff is sanitizing her facility, disinfecting surfaces, washing hands and taking the temperatures of all children that come in, 'following the protocol that the Department of Health has specified."
"The parents that are here are extremely grateful because those are parents that would have to take off work and not get paid," Boyce said. "It would be a hardship financially for them."
"I understand that people have to go to work," Jaramillo said. "I understand that first responders and medical personnel have to be available... but I have my staff ready and available to go to their homes or for the child to come to their homes."
Jaramillo said the state has also has 'waived the ratios in group sizes,' meaning his center could have cared for six infants for every teacher. Before the outbreak, he said he was limited to three infants per teacher.
"It just seems counterproductive to me," Jaramillo said. "The governor mentions that everything should shut down, but yet, she's encouraging childcare centers to not only stay open, but increase their numbers."
The New Mexico Child Care and Education Association released a letter to daycare providers, which reads in part:
“By keeping non-public childcare open, (New Mexico) assures parents, especially working families and emergency responders that they have safe, secure childcare options so they can continue to work.
Community-Based Providers across the state are prioritizing children whose parents have to work. A handful of Community-Based Providers have made the decision to close. If this happens, families can take their children to another provider in their community for care.”