MONTREAL -- It’s Thursday afternoon and the rooms inside Garderie LaSalle des Petits are dark and quiet.

It’s supposed to be naptime. But actually, there are just no kids. After the daycare reopened at the beginning of June, when the government eased some pandemic restrictions, only two chlidren showed up.

Its co-founder says she’s worried many parents won’t be able to afford to bring their kids back, and she’s not alone—many private daycares in Montreal aren’t sure they can stay afloat.

“Some of them are not going to be back,” says Guerlaine Guerrier, the co-founder of Garderie LaSalle des Petits, which is located downtown on Ste. Catherine St. at LaSalle College.

“Some of them have lost their job, so how are they supposed to be coming back if they don’t have a job?”

At Garderie Tic-Toc in Lasalle, a handful of children are napping. Under the new guidelines, they have room for more, but more aren’t coming right now. The government is giving them $10 per day per child that’s supposed to be enrolled, but the owner of the daycare says that will end by July.

“The best that I can do is just reassure parents that what we're doing will make them come back and want to be part of this family again, and be here and know their children are safe,” says owner Robert Lalli.

Those running private daycares say they have to follow the same rules as CPEs but without the same support, and the expenses are now piling up. 

On top of losing kids in the long term, Guerrier says that constantly sanitizing toys and special kids’ books, and keeping an array of “COVID boxes” to keep the items in for cleaning, adds up.

The daycares’ make-or-break moment is likely coming soon, the owners say, so people may start to see many of them going dark permanently.

Guerrier says she expects more than half to close. “Fifty-three per cent of private daycare owners will close because of COVID-19,” she says.

People will only feel the fallout later, she thinks.

“We play a big role in the economy, because thanks to us parents can go and work.”

The private daycares’ association is asking for more subsidies. 

The office of Quebec’s minister for families says it has already invested $55 million in the problem.

"We know very well that they have challenges to meet, like many other Quebec companies in this time of pandemic,” said a statement from the minister’s office.

“But with all this support… we are convinced that the private daycares will be able to continue their activities.”