Owner of child care center hopeful about rebounding from pandemic setbacks
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Many schools have reopened for in-person classes, but some parents of infants or toddlers find their lives still far from normal and child care centers are grappling with new challenges.
Milli Pintacsi is the owner and director of Le Petit Elephant Nursery and Preschool in Napa, California. She said her child care center got off to a strong start when it launched in December 2015.
“There were just not even close to enough child care spots, so we hosted our first open house, and it was like the floodgates had been opened,” Pintacsi said. “It was wonderful, it was thrilling, it was terrifying.”
Pintacsi said since opening, her business expanded over the years, adding several classrooms. Enrollment reached full capacity in March 2020.
“But when COVID hit, we shut down with the shelter-in-place, and we basically lost all of that momentum,” Pintacsi said. “We had to furlough 32 highly qualified and trained teachers and all of our families.”
After three months of the center being closed, Pintacsi made the decision to reopen. Her business had significant challenges, in contrast to the leaps and bounds she had made before the pandemic.
“We lost an average of $20,000 to $30,000 a month just being open,” she said. “We only were able to have about half of the families and about half of our staff that were willing to return and wanting to return.”
Hurdles around staffing are among the biggest obstacles that keep Pintacsi’s business from operating as before.
“We continue to try to hire, which has been an extreme challenge for us — to find teachers with experience in child care as well as the education that is required to be a fully qualified preschool or infant teacher,” she said.
As more people get vaccinated and enrollment ticks back up, Pintacsi said, things are looking a little more optimistic for her business. But it hasn’t been easy to carry the responsibilities of managing her staff and tackling new challenges while being a mother to three children.
“It does feel most days that I’m basically stretched as thin as I can go,” Pintacsi said. “It takes quite a lot to be kind of a one-woman show, but this is our family business. This was our nest egg. It feels like we can’t fail — we have to make it.”
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