and Grace Wyler
Administrators and owners of day care centers that perform well on state inspections say keeping up with regulations is a daily task.
Amy Logan teaches a class of 3- and 4-year-old children for six hours at Imagine That! Day Care and Preschool in Columbiana and then spends another three or four hours in her office doing paperwork.
“Paperwork is a big thing that state inspectors check,” said Logan, who became the owner of Imagine That! in 2007. She started working as a teacher there in 1999.
Imagine That! has had no violations in three state inspections, which Logan credits to following everything “by the book.”
“I encourage parents to look up the inspections,” she said.
Kara Continenza of St. Mark’s Building Blocks Learning Center in Boardman said having no violations in four inspections, like her center, is a realistic goal.
“It comes down to being organized. [Inspectors] are not trying to trick you,” Continenza said.
She said changes to the state- licensing inspections used to come through the mail but are now online and sent through e-mail.
The busiest time in the day care business is fall, at the start of the school year, when all paperwork must be returned by parents, she added.
“The staff files have to be up to date, everything needs to be signed like it’s supposed to be signed. You need to go section by section,” Continenza said, noting that simple things, such as not having the street address of a child’s doctor’s office, counts as a violation.
Continenza teaches a preschool class and said she ends up doing most of her paperwork at home. Even though it is time-consuming to meet every inspection criterion, the day care owner said she thinks the inspection process is valuable and fair.
“I feel that some places are only doing the minimum, so if [inspectors] are catching places on things, they are really helping the kids that go there,” she said.
Maintaining low staff-to-child ratios can help centers keep up with regulations, said Michelle Frease, administrator for St. Rose Sunny Days Child Care Center in Girard. The center, which has been licensed for more than 30 years, had no violations over four inspections during the past two years.
Classroom ratios are mandated by state licensing requirements. There must be one staff member to every seven toddlers under age 21/2, one to every eight toddlers between ages 21/2 and 3, one to every 12 three-year-olds, one to every 14 children between ages 4 and 5 and one to every 18 school-aged children under age 11. Centers that care for infants must have one staff member on hand for every five babies.
Sunny Days tries to keep its ratios at least slightly lower than those required by the state, Frease said. Unlike some centers, Sunny Days does not include student teachers when calculating its classroom ratios. The center also employs a full-time secretary to help manage student and employee records.
Low ratios help teachers stay on top of more minor regulations, such as making sure carpets are vacuumed and schedule changes are clearly marked and visible, Frease said. Teachers can also give students more individual attention, she added.
“There is a lot more accountability on the teachers’ parts,” she said. “There is a daily list of things that we have to do, but it’s a team effort.”