ATLANTIC CITY — Early Monday morning, for the first time in months, parents walked their children up the driveway to Atlantic City Day Nursery.
When they arrived, they stopped at a yellow piece of tape a few feet from the entryway. Director Alice Armstrong eagerly greeted them but kept her distance as she spouted off a series of questions.
“Have you taken any fever-reducing Tylenol?” asked Armstrong, wearing a cloth mask and a plastic face shield. “Have you been exposed to anyone with the virus?”
Then, she used an infrared thermometer to scan the child’s temperature, marking it down on a clipboard. If they passed the quiz, the children were admitted inside.
The 114-year-old Atlantic City Day Nursery on North Boston Avenue reopened its doors this week to local families after being closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Atlantic City Day Nursery, established in 1906 by Sara Leeds, of the region’s famous Leeds family, serves about 50 families. About 18 children returned Monday, and 10 more will return in July.
One of the main concerns of the nonprofit nursery and its board of directors when it closed in the spring was not how it would reopen, but if they could reopen due to financial constraints. The pandemic caused the board to cancel its biggest fundraiser of the year, the annual fashion show.
Armstrong said they sent out 15 grant applications during the closure, and so far have only heard back on two, which they were denied.
Tuition revenue is also down as many parents are still unemployed or have older children at home due to COVID-19 and are electing not to return at this point.
Armstrong said they were able to receive some state funding to subsidize the costs of reopening.
“It helped us for a little bit, and we hope our enrollment picks up so we can continue serving Atlantic City because we’ve been here for so long,” she said.
Armstrong said the reopening took a lot of preparation over the last month. “We’ve kept communication with parents during the break. We sent them care packages,” she said, with masks, sanitizer and coloring books. “The biggest challenge is the downsizing in classrooms. At this age, it’s about building that social emotional growth in them.”
The reunion Monday was strange for the children and parents, who were used to walking them inside with hugs and kisses before heading off to work. Some of the children lingered or cried before saying goodbye, others were eager to rejoin their friends.
“We’re happy because we need to go back to work, unfortunately,” said parent Sergio Guseto, who arrived to the nursery with his 15-month-old son just after 8 a.m.
Eliceth Salvatierra was also returning to her job at the Tropicana on Monday for a staff meeting. She said she was glad to have a place to take her two sons as the city’s businesses reopen.
Lateefah Prescott’s 2-year-old daughter waved excitedly at Armstrong when she arrived.
“It’s good they reopened, but it’s a little different,” Prescott said. “I thought she would have a hard time adjusting, but she did fine.”