What It’s Like Now: Jessi Segura, daycare director and T-shirt maker

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re shifting our Shawnee Mission Faces to focus on folks in roles that have been profoundly effected by the virus and response: What life is like now with social distancing, a stay-at-home mandate and the need for essential workers.

While schools are shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, many daycares remain open. As director of the Countryside Child Development Center in Mission, Jessi Segura provides daycare for children from infants through pre-kindergarten. In four years, the Ottawa University alumna grew the program from seven to nearly 100 children. When not working, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, making T-shirts for her staff, hosting barbecues, traveling, and taking care of the family’s new puppy. She lives in Overland Park with her husband, Franklin Segura, and their three children.

I’m a mom first. The day that it all happened, I freaked out, I panicked, I cried. Yesterday I was crying because I miss my mom.

I think of my staff, and I think of those single moms. I have a teacher, a single mom of three kids, sure she can file for unemployment if we close, but that’s going to hit… when?

I thought about my families, like how this is going to affect them. Luckily, we still had enough families to stay open, so here we are.

When this whole thing happened, KDHE came out and said we support all the centers, we encourage you to stay open for our families, for the front-line workers, but you do have the option to close.

Immediately, I knew that safety comes first. I have a staff of 20 people. Everyone has kids and families. Everyone’s going to be scared, and everyone’s going to want to take off, especially with this whole unemployment thing. I knew that was going to be a kicker.

But at the end of the day, I have a responsibility to my families, and I have a responsibility to my community. So I told my staff until we get down to 10 families, we’re here and we’re going to stay open. If you don’t feel comfortable, if you feel scared, if you don’t feel safe, I support you, and that is OK. You can stay home, take vacation. I have three kids of my own, and every day it’s a struggle for myself as a mom, because that comes first.

We serve a hundred kids, and of those, we still have 50 kids attending. And of those, a lot of those parents are in the healthcare industry, they are doctors, nurses. We do have some parents working from home, and they have that mom guilt, (but) it’s hard to work from home because you have a toddler running around, a 2-year-old that wants to talk to you all day long. I think it’s hard too for some of those older kids that need and thrive off that routine.

Nobody knows what the right thing to do is. But we take it day by day. We screen them when they come in, diligently washing our hands, hand sanitizer.

Before all this shutdown happened, I went to five or six different stores to stock up on things, and we made it through. We have two suppliers but sometimes they run low. Our families are so good to us; so many people have donated wipes and sanitizer. I have families going out of their way to give us masks and all the supplies we need for us to stay safe so we can operate.

And Roger, our reverend, comes down every day to check on us, helps us find supplies, prays for us every weekend during Mass. It makes my job easier knowing that I can count on them.

Even though some families have been laid off, furloughed, it’s hard for them but they’re still bringing their children so they can have some of that routine and structure. Some families are staying at home; they are still obligated to pay their tuition, even half price, so if something were to happen we can still pay our staff.

And we have had so many families opt to pay the full amount no matter what, just so we can take care of our staff. That showcases how we go out of our way for our families, they take care of us, we take care of them. And I always go out of my way to make my staff feel happy and comfortable.

I just think that everybody has to be positive about this. Yes, it sucks, and yes we’re going through something that nobody ever envisioned, but we have to stay positive because the kids feed off of us. They see if I’m sad, depressed and angry at the world, they’re going to feel sad and act out and their vibes are going to change.

I feel like God put us here for a reason, and this is what’s going to happen: We’re going to continue moving on until it’s done.

Note: The Shawnee Mission Post is making all coverage of the coronavirus pandemic accessible to non-subscribers. (If you value having a local news source covering the situation in our community, we hope you’ll consider subscribing here).