NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Education is the life's work of a mother and daughter who provide learning resources for young children in their Brooklyn community, but the coronavirus pandemic is threatening their daycare.
Mildred Lovell immigrated to East Flatbush from Haiti as a baby where she was raised, stared her journey as a special education teacher for more than 20 years, and opened Garden of Knowledge Day Care Center at 1657 Nostrand Avenue in February 2007 with her daughter Dheydra.
"It brings tears to my eyes that I may not be able to reopen in September," Mildred Lovell told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank.
Schools and daycares are in the forefront as local governments prepare to announce reopening plans for the fall while parents and teachers express trepidation about returning to the classroom as COVID-19 threatens the most vulnerable. Mildred and Dheydra have spent the last four months listening to parents' health and safety concerns while introducing a distance learning program.
"During the summer time we work on sports with the children, so we continued our curriculum and we sent out equipment for sports, so they can work with their children," Dheydra Lovell said. "It's been successful for the most part."
But, that success is relative to the pandemic. Online learning is not scalable for the Garden of Knowledge Day Care Center at this point unless they start seeing new enrollment if schools do not reopen this fall or enough parents hold out.
"I'm just keeping my faith and continue to pray so that doors can be open and children can be served in a safe manner," said Mildred.
They do Zoom video calls on Fridays to check in on students' progress and work with parents to ensure children are receiving a stimulating learning experience – all things considered.
In the meantime, Dheydra, who also provides one-on-one tutoring for autistic children, spends her days reimagining the daycare from a new socially distanced layout to stocking up on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
"Planning out our budget, planning out what we will need to do to see if we can reopen in September and still accommodate the CDC guidelines and requirements as well as provide a very safe and productive environment for our children along with our staff," Dheydra said of their challenges ahead.
The Garden of Knowledge Day Care Center is bleeding cash and facing an uphill financial battle as safety expenses increase and others remain constant.
"We haven't recovered from the loss," Dheydra told Joe and Neil about the financial impact of its forced shutdown in March, continuing, "It's a question of recovering, sustaining, currently, and also, preparing for the next few months because we don't know what's going to happen."
The East Flatbush daycare's owners told WCBS 880 parents are expressing safety is priority, but as they look to return to the workplace, they will need child care services. It is a complex predicament for many families, underscoring the vitality of education for the economy.
"These are all things that we think about to really determine us opening up in September, said Dheydra Lovell.