The following was written for COLlive.com by a director of a playgroup in Crown Heights. The author requested anonymity as this issue pertains to other playgroups in the neighborhood as well:
Can we chat about a group that is really suffering right now?
The Crown Heights community is growing and the schooling system starts on the most part at 3 years old. The few schools that cater to younger children are filled almost immediately leaving many working parents with the need to find childcare in safe, fun environments where they will grow and learn.
This is where Crown Heights playgroups step in. They provide all the above and more with teachers who are loving, kind and giving. Especially for those who go into chinuch at this age and stage, patience and love are very important pieces. Most playgroup teachers fill this abundantly.
Crown Heights playgroups are in a fight for their lives at the moment. Many of them rent spaces (at the normal exorbitant Brooklyn rental prices) and as schools are closed they have no means of income to cover their expenses.
We have all been put into an absolutely horrible situation with the world shutting down due to Covid-19. School’s tuition has not changed and they continue to rightfully charge the tuition that parents agreed upon at the beginning of the school year to help cover the costs of rent, teachers pay, etc.
Especially in the younger grades, teachers are preparing for a class or 2 and may even prepare a packet at the beginning of the week. For the most part, parents are paying for full tuition and receiving a small amount.
When it comes to playgroups, we are not afforded the same courtesy. We understand that we are not providing the childcare that you signed up for. We understand that Zoom classes for this age -while “cute”- are far from ideal. We also know that everyone is struggling right now.
Yet the landlords call expecting to be paid for their space. And the teachers and assistant teachers hired for playgroups are also currently struggling as they are out of jobs too.
Many of us are left wondering how are we going to survive this? Do we continue to put money into our now empty spaces in the hope that eventually we will be able to re-open? Or take on the debt to repay in the future from future earnings? Should we just cut our losses and shut down, putting our stuff into storage (and incur the expense of a move and storage)? And when the time comes that we can re-open, reevaluate if this is really something we want to pour money into again? Do we sell off our stuff now?
One thing is for certain: When the next school year comes and parents are looking to place their children, the pickings for playgroups will be much slimmer. By then, many will have closed up shop for good.
If you care about this, perhaps reach out to the director of the playgroup your child is in and find a way to help them out in this difficult time so that they are not dealing with the financial strain fully on their own.
While no one could have predicted this current situation, they did accept your child with the knowledge that it would bring in a certain amount of parnassah and now they are left without.