by Joe Wyatt Published March 23, 2020 Thanks to a concerted effort to consolidate staff and keep at least one of Amarillo College’s two childcare centers operational, some essential workers, particularly those in healthcare professions, are able to continue doing their own good work. AC’s Hagy Center for Young Children opened its doors on Monday, March 23 with reduced hours, limited capacity and a combination of staff and youngsters from two different AC centers – but indeed it opened and continues to serve. With local schools and many daycare centers shuttered, AC made the decision to continue providing childcare for those among its regular clientele who cannot work from home and have kids ranging in age from infant to 5. To make it work, AC closed its Child Development Lab School on the West Campus and moved participating staff and youngsters from that center to the Hagy Center. For now, Hagy will be open weekdays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. “Our parents are depending on us,” said Dennis Sarine, chair of the Education Department at AC. “We polled our parents to see how many would have to miss vital work if we closed our centers, and many consider us essential. “Some are able to work from home, while others have older children they need to keep at home, as do some among our own staff; however, a lot of the parents we serve simply cannot go to work without us, and some do highly important work. “Our Hagy Center is located in the Amarillo Hospital District and several of our parents work in the hospitals,” Sarine said. “We also have parents who work for the city. I am proud of our staff who pulled together to help provide a service that impacts our entire community.” Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hagy Center will observe protocols recommended by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Centers for Disease Control. Until further notice, staff at the Hagy Center will greet children at the door, take their temperatures and admit only those with no apparent symptoms or illness. Each time a child discards a toy it will be immediately placed in the dirty-toy bin, which will be systematically disinfected. Vigorous sanitizing efforts will be in evidence throughout the center, although no bleach products will be used in rooms while kids are in them, and the hum of the washer and dryer will be constant, according to center director Sharonda Davis. “Our activities will be normal and our lesson plans are ready to go,” Davis said. “But our staff will arrive an hour early every day to clean, and we’ll stay an hour after we close to fully sanitize. “We’re controlling who comes in and out of our building, we have an amazing group of childcare workers who are willing to go the extra mile for these kids, and we have our own kitchen to prepare our own food. I think we’re good to go.” AC’s expertise in early childhood development is arguably second to none. Both centers participate in Texas School Ready, a kindergarten preparatory program that promotes literacy. The Hagy Center cannot accept new students at present due to limited staff. However, Sarine says he hopes the hours of operation might be expanded following an assessment of the ongoing collaboration between the two centers.