Colorado elementary, middle, and high school kids have been wearing masks in class for more than a year. But at child care centers, teachers are facing a relatively new requirement: keeping a mask on a 2-year-old all day.
Ashley Henshaw, the co-owner of Stepping Stones Learning Care Center of Littleton, said her teachers can barely conduct lessons because they’re chasing around little kids trying to keep masks on.
“They do the best they can, but (the masks) are constantly hanging down. Most masks don’t fit them,” Henshaw said.
Henshaw and other child care center owners in Jefferson County are now required to follow a public health order amended earlier this month, requiring masks to be worn inside by all children 2 and older. They can only take them off when they’re eating, sleeping, or playing outside.
The public health order cited data showing COVID-19 cases among children ages 0-4 have gone up nearly 78% from August 2020.
“The health department put these mandates in place for a reason, and I know there’s research showing it’s safe to put a mask on a child,” Henshaw said, but she doesn’t believe it’s the best practice for kids in critical stages of development.
“We have lots of speech delays and children who are really struggling to form words,” Henshaw pointed out.
Henshaw said she has talked to Jefferson County Public Health and asked for other options, like creating cohorts that would keep kids in smaller, separated groups, allowing them to drop the masks. But as a business, she has to follow the public health order to the letter, or face closure.
“When (the order) first came out I was called a child abuser by some of our parents, I was yelled at in the hallway numerous times,” Henshaw said.
Some parents pulled their children out of her center. She said other parents have been supportive and compassionate. Some of those parents are planning a peaceful protest at Columbine Library on Friday and are circulating a petition in hopes that health officials will consider a change in the order.
“They’re going about it in the right way, they’re not being nasty. It’s refreshing to see how they’re doing it because I’ve seen some other counties where it’s getting extremely ugly,” Henshaw said.