Albrecht Kinder Academy in Easton is the fourth day care Erica Kilcoyne has opened since she got into the day care business more than 20 years ago.
EASTON — Six months ago, things seemed daunting for day care owner and operator Erica Kilcoyne.
In March, she had to close her three centers in East Bridgewater and West Bridgewater after Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus.
Kilcoyne was able to reopen her day cares in the summer and last week opened a new one in Easton called Albrecht Kinder Academy at 77 Turnpike St. She had been waiting a year to open the center, paying rent and electricity for the empty building until she received a state license to operate.
“With COVID, it was a long time coming,” the Brockton resident said. “Kids need to go somewhere.”
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Albrecht Kinder Academy is named for Kilcoyne’s father, Manfred Albrecht, who has supported her starting her businesses over the years. She said she is hoping to make him proud and welcome more children to the day care.
The academy is licensed to care for 29 children — 20 who are pre-K aged and nine toddlers. Most of the children came from Kilcoyne’s day care Cowlicks and Pigtails in West Bridgewater.
Including Albrecht Kinder Academy, Kilcoyne’s day cares serve about 100 children from infants up to kindergarten age.
She has noticed how early education centers and day cares have closed during the pandemic.
They are especially important now because they keep other businesses open by helping people return to work, Kilcoyne said.
She said it was nice to welcome children back, but staff had to figure out how to keep everyone safe.
At the start of the day, temperature checks and screening questions are done at the door of Albrecht Kinder Academy. Parents can stand on the porch to drop their children off, but they can’t go inside.
Children wear face masks or shields in the building. Kilcoyne said they are fine with wearing the coverings, and staff read the children books to help them understand the safety measures and coronavirus in an age appropriate way.
During nap time, the children are spaced apart on sleep mats.
There are also separate staff and areas for the toddlers and older children.
Receiving funds from the federal Paycheck Protection Program helped Kilcoyne keep her businesses open, she said. The program is aimed to help businesses pay their employees, cover rent and other expenses during the pandemic.
Initially, she said she was hesitant to apply for it and take out a loan, but decided to apply after talking with Charlene Conway, the owner of Carousel Family Fun Center in Whitman who received funding and told her it helped her business.
Kilcoyne applied for the program and learned that she was approved the day that applications closed.
“COVID is scary,” she said. “I hope we never have to shut down gain. You don’t know how much you love your job until it’s stripped from you.”
Come January, it will be 22 years since Kilcoyne opened her first day care.
The mother of five, who had her eldest child while she was in high school, said she has always loved kids and liked to babysit. Later in life she became a foster parent and adopted two of the children she fostered.
Running a day care is something you do because you love it, not for the money, Kilcoyne said.
“You have to do it for the outcome, not the income,” she said.
Because of the timing of the academy’s October opening, Kilcoyne said she missed the rush to secure day care spots for pre-K children, which usually happens in September.
She has also noticed that her day cares are caring for about half as many infants as usual because families may be scared to have their babies outside of the home, especially during the pandemic.
Kilcoyne is based at the Easton academy and managers run her day cares in East Bridgewater and West Bridgewater. Rules for day cares say that she and staff have to stay at their locations instead of being able to go between them.
Even though she can’t be at her other day cares, Kilcoyne stays in touch with staff and parents through a phone app called Bright Wheel. She can message parents and staff can send pictures and post updates on how a child is eating, napping and more.
Kilcoyne said she’s generally responsive to families throughout the day and if they call after-hours. She has built relationships with them and knows not just their children, but about them, too.
“You go the extra mile and that’s what the parents love,” Kilcoyne said.
Staff writer Mina Corpuz can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.