INDIANAPOLIS — In March, as case of the coronavirus started to spread across the state, IU Health Day Early Learning stayed open.
"Our phones rang off the hook so we knew this was something that needed to happen," Chelsea Ndaiga, center director for IU Health Day Early Learning, said.
Their company, Early Learning Indiana, created a program in a matter of days to give essential workers an option for childcare.
"We immediately started to panic a little bit because trying to figure out what to do with kids every day when I still have to go to work was a little nerve-racking to put it mildly," Jodi Skiles, a pediatric stem cell transplant physician at Riley Hospital for Children, said.
Skiles has two daughters — 5-year-old Molly and 3-year-old Gracie. Their daycare and school closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When we first started I didn't know what to expect," Skiles said. "I was just like I need a place for my kids to be so I can take care of my patients every day."
IU Health Day Early Learning took in about 22 kids, including Skiles' daughters.
"Some of our other centers are taking on the EMS workers and the fire department and police department and allowing the doors to be open," Ndaiga said.
Because of the virus and the families they are helping, there are social distancing measures in place inside and outside of the building. Children are screened daily and parents aren't allowed inside the building.
"We just can't have that traffic because we don't know where everybody has been," Ndaiga said.
Since parents are not able to go inside the center right now, the teachers decorated the front windows. They are full of pictures of the children, showing what it looks like inside and the activities theyi are doing throughout the day.
Skiles said she sees her children smiling daily when she picks them up, which is why she's decided to keep her kids enrolled in the daycare even after IU Health stops paying for the service.
"Honestly we were desperate and we just needed a solution," Skiles said. "Day Early Learning has done such a phenomenal job not only keeping my kids safe and still live at the end of the day but they have also done a great job of providing an environment where my kids can continue to learn and grow and where they're happy."