Maria Dominguez, an award-winning former public school bilingual teacher, cashed in her life savings in December to open her tiny day care to a handful of kids in a remodeled home in North Austin.
Just three months later, amid fears of the coronavirus and a declining attendance due to the pandemic, her Cielito Lindo Spanish immersion preschool closed its doors.
To save her day care, a lifelong dream of hers, Dominquez will reopen it on Monday, even as state health officials only allow her to accept students whose parents are deemed essential workers.
Dominguez hopes their tuition, which she has not charged while offering lessons online for free, will be enough. Five children are coming back, she said, about half of her earlier enrollment.
"As a business, there are expenses that are still happening, regardless of whether you're open or if you have income or not," said Dominguez, who took no business loans to open but qualified for a $1,000 disaster loan.
As governments closed businesses across communities to avoid the virus' spread, child care centers were allowed to stay open to serve essential workers.
But that still meant bringing in less than half the tuition dollars while paying operating costs, as well as increased expenses from new health regulations.
Open Door Preschools, which once took care of 200 children in three locations in Austin, closed in March and reopened one location on April 6 to serve children of essential workers, executive director Cynthia Smith McCollum said. The staff expected about 26 kids to come back under those rules, she said. Their attendance is less than half that.
"We've got about 5% of our regular attendance right now," McCollum said.
A bigger worry for Dominguez, who lives at the home-based day care with her husband and daughter, was the health of her own family, her employee and that of her eight students. She closed on March 25.
"At that point we just didn't know where all of this was headed and how big it would turn out to be," she said.
It wasn't a small decision.
A survey of day care centers in Texas, taken on the day Dominguez closed her doors, showed that more than a quarter worried they wouldn't be able to reopen if they closed for any length of time.
Another quarter of them thought they could last two weeks, and another 21% weren't sure how long they could survive, according to the survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
"It's been tough out there," said David Feigen of Texans Care for Children, a child advocacy group.
His organization hopes the state will quickly resolve the issue of day care for workers in nonessential jobs, whose employers will be allowed to reopen in a limited capacity on May 1, but whose children are still not allowed in day care centers.
Even then, however, the loss of income, reported by three-quarters of the survey respondents in Texas, will be insurmountable for many, Feigen said.
Advocates are pushing for financial assistance for the child care system, warning that if there isn't sufficient support for these centers now, there will be no one to take care of the kids when Texas workers come back in full force.
"If we want to rebuild the economy, we need to make sure child care is still there," Feigen said.
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Since we started working at Austonia, the editorial team has visited more than 40 coffee shops across the city to work in. We have a few favorites but the shops that transition from work to play are some of the best.
The ideal day-to-night coffee shops, according to us, are open by noon and stay open late, have both coffee drinks and alcoholic libations and are suitable both for a day of work or a night out.
Whether the conversation is just too good to pause, you need to blow off steam after a long day of work or want to mix up your midday pick-me-up, we recommend these businesses around town.
Ani’s Day and Night | 7107 E Riverside Dr.
Inside the house of the late Aniceta “Cheta” Limon, a businesswoman extraordinaire and lifelong Austinite, Ani’s Day and Night is an intimate choice to spend some time. With creative coffee drinks, like the espresso-chai “Let’s Choco-bout It” or dreamy blue “Pea Tea A,” similarly whimsical cocktails, natural wine and beer selection, there is something for any time of the day and night. You can catch bites from a food truck on site.
Better Half Coffee and Cocktails | 406 Walsh St.
Come for Better Half’s exquisite rosemary lavender latte, stay for the pineapple-y “La Llorona” or gin-based “Frozemary’s Baby” cocktails. From the minds behind Bad Larry’s Burger Club, Better Half slings classics with a personal twist, like the cauliflower tots, $6 happy hour “cheeseburgs,” or Sichuan hot chicken sandwich. The adjoining Hold Out Brewing has you covered on the artisan beer front, complete with a sprawling outdoor patio for those warm summer evenings.
Cherrywood Coffeehouse | 1400 E 38th 1/2 St.
With a homey interior, full menu of breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch foods (delicious, if we do say so ourselves), and gigantic backyard with picnic tables galore, Cherrywood Coffeehouse is comfy enough to spend the whole day in. We enjoyed the breakfast quesadillas, sunset lane smoothie and more than 20 beers on tap.
Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden | 121 Pickle Rd.
Just off South Congress, Cosmic is one of Austin’s most popular spots to spend a Friday afternoon. With a huge serene garden to explore and enjoy, famous food trucks like Tommy Want Wingy and Pueblo Viejo just steps away and an impressive array of coffee and cocktails on the menu, Cosmic exemplifies the Austin vibe. We like the frozen matcha painkiller, the yuzu lime Rickey and Cosmic’s Paloma.
Plaza Colombian Coffee | 3842 S Congress Ave.
This Colombian food paradise goes from a cozy tropical work environment to a colorful outdoor tiki bar experience. Plaza Colombian’s exquisite take on a London Fog is great for a daytime visit but the Tiki drinks come out once the sun goes down. As far as food goes, start with the plantain chip pataconcitos, arepas of your choice and don’t leave without an order of bocaditos, or puff pastry tossed in coffee cinnamon sugar.
Radio Coffee & Beer | 4204 Menchaca Rd.
On top of hosting acclaimed local food trucks—like Veracruz All Natural—offering morning brews and local booze, Radio is also an avid events venue. Live music, comedy shows and weekend markets are common occurrences, plus its hours can accommodate both the early bird and the night owl. Try one of the many local beers on tap or your pick of flavored margaritas.
Simona’s Coffee + Cocktails | 2510 S Congress Ave.
Bougie and Instagram-worthy, Simona’s at The Colton House Hotel is the complete package: Both indoor and outdoor seating, ample outlets for working, light bites, coffee, tea and a variety of themed cocktails. Head upstairs to the library nook for some decorative surprises and lowkey photo opportunities while you sip on a spicy “Hell or Highwater” cocktail with Ghost Tequila.
A Union Pacific cargo train hit a man in his 40s, killing him Thursday morning, Austin police said.
The train's driver called the police after the train hit the man at around 12:45 a.m. in the 300 block of Orchard Street, near Fifth Street and Lamar Boulevard.
Police have not released the identity of the man.