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Child care facility, The Learning Experience, opens 70% of its schools across the nation

Yahoo Finance's Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi speak to Richard Weissman, The Learning Experience CEO & Co-Founder, about the future of childcare following the coronavirus pandemic and steps that the company is currently taking.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Families across the nation continue to juggle with work-life balances. Schools and some day cares remain closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Here to discuss is Richard Weissman. He is the co-founder and CEO of The Learning Experience.

Richard, good to speak with you this morning. Top of mind for me, and I'm sure many of our viewers, you have locations in South Carolina and Texas, where some of these restrictions have started to ease and the economies have started to reopen. What have you done from a safety perspective in these facilities?

RICHARD WEISSMAN: Yeah, good morning. Thank you so much, Brian. Listen, it is a completely new world, and the fact of the matter is, we had a significant amount of safety standards in place before this pandemic. But this has changed a significant amount of that.

Part of it is that clearly what you've heard and top of mind is going to be constantly wearing the face mask, the temperature readings at the front door, no longer permitting parents to enter the facility. And actually, they're going-- we call valet service, which is actually just taking the child from our front door and bringing them to the classroom, where before the parent brought them to the classroom. Going ahead and making sure that any signs, whatsoever, from a staff person, a parent, or child of any type of temperature, or sickness, or just sneezing, they are not permitted in the school until they get better or obtain a doctor's notes.

The fact of the matter is, is that all those procedures are really transparent relative to the fact of how we deal with the adult. It's not as transparent to the child. A child seeing a teacher with a mask on may be something they are concerned about, and they're not used to it. So we've actually manufactured masks with our characters on it, like Bubbles the elephant, et cetera, to be a little bit more friendly.

But I want to be clear about something. I do not believe, unlike some other people, that this is a solution permanently. I don't believe this is going to last years. I believe it's a moment in time. So while we wear masks right now, I do not believe that's something that will happen and, let call it, a year from today in 2021.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I'm certainly hopeful that that's not going to be the case, like you say, Richard. But what about the summer, I mean, the most immediate time for parents and for kids, kids looking forward to summer camp, parents who need to work and are hopeful that their summer camps are still going to be up and running? What's the status of your camps right now? And if you are having them, how are you going to hold them?

RICHARD WEISSMAN: Great question because we're in the middle of it right now. The fact of the matter is, we fought, I fought, very, very hard over the last [? umpteen ?] months to keep our schools open. So we are 70% of our centers are open. Only 30% are closed. And that was primarily forced by the local municipalities or our state agencies.

So with 70% of our schools open, we actually have some sensitivity on what the results are. We are seeing as states open and they're coming back, I just don't believe it's going to be a summer. What I mean by that is your traditional summer camp is not really what's going to happen.

You have to remember, there's a number of kids that haven't had their ABCs or one, two, threes. And so while summer camp may be fun play, we need to get back to educational standard, even at our preschool levels. Too, I believe the parents are going to need us more than ever. If they missed their bonuses or missed their income, they're going to have to work really hard to make up what they may have lost.

And so therefore, I think we're much more traditional education in the summertime than we would have otherwise. What I expect to happen is that we will be much less play outside. So by example, we used to take buses and bring them to bowling, et cetera, and those kind of function, or bring them to a park, we're not going to do that anymore. We're not going to permit the child to leave the environment. We're not going to let people we do not control in the environment.

So those playtime activities, we're going to do the best we can within the environment. We used to bring in, by example, a ice cream truck. And now what we'll do is we'll serve ice cream in the school and do it ourselves. And so those kind of things are stuff that we're going to have to control and contain.

I do want to give a quick statistic. The states that have opened, which is about five or six for us, we have seen a 40% to 50% increase in enrollment in a week once they open. So there has been a huge need and a push back to the centers. So as I said, I think we're very prepared for it, the safety and security procedures. And we're going to go back to education, even during the summer months.

BRIAN SOZZI: Richard, how-- how big a-- how big a setback is this, the pandemic, for an entire generation of children? Are they pushed back at how they learn and how they develop, are they now set back, let's say, one to three years?

RICHARD WEISSMAN: You know, I don't believe that. You've got to remember, I've been in this preschool business for a long time, over 30-some odd years. And I will be honest and tell you I have lived through multiple recessionary markets. I lived through September 11, 2001.

And if you go back to September 11, 2001, similar type of events were happening, by news medias, that the world was going to change. There was a new world order. In New York-- I was in the city at the time-- no one was going to be in a building over 30 stories tall. And now they're building taller buildings.

So I don't believe there's going to be a huge setback. I believe-- you know, the greatest thing about youth is that, just exactly that, they're youth, and they have a very short-term memory. And so they'll get over it very quickly. The bigger question is the parents and how the parents get over it more so than the child. And I think, in my opinion, if I was to give guidance to the parents, and we service, you know, before this pandemic, you know, 30-some odd, 30,000 kids, the fact of the matter is I think a parent needs to get back to normal.

My advice is is that your child really may have very little understanding of exactly what happened. And if you remember when you were probably three or four years old, it is a blink of an eye if you remember anything that happened at three or four years of age. And so while you might say I lived during the 2020 period, you're not going to remember it. And so it's really important that the parent make the child get just back to normal and not lose that moment in time of youth that that child would have otherwise had.

BRIAN SOZZI: Hey, I remember what I was doing, Richard, when I was three. I was throwing rocks on the playground.

RICHARD WEISSMAN: Well, we do not permit rocks on our playground, so--

BRIAN SOZZI: Times have changed since I went to school. But let's-- let's leave it there. Richard Weissman, The Learning Experience co-founder and CEO. Thanks for taking some time this morning, and good luck over the next couple weeks.

RICHARD WEISSMAN: Thank you. Same with all of everybody else.