Tewksbury day care closure shows a system on the brink

For Lindsey Schofield’s daughters, Pattikakes’ was “a magical place.” The girls could run through fields, walk in the woods, and picnic with horses on the child care center’s

grounds. Pattikakes’ also happened to be located just across the parking lot from the building where Schofield works as a music therapist for the Department of Mental Health, on

the campus of Tewksbury Hospital. But at the end of October, Pattikakes’ closed its doors. After 20 years in business, having survived the COVID shutdown and the stringent

safety protocols that followed, the beloved day care was beset by surging costs, plummeting revenues, and chronic staffing shortages. Owner Patti MacGillivray, 68, was working 60

hours a week covering for absent teachers, sanitizing surfaces, and doing paperwork on nights and weekends. She had raised tuition after the shutdown and knew many families

couldn’t afford another rate hike, which meant she couldn’t afford to increase wages beyond $22 an hour, or offer health insurance, to attract more teachers. “It just got to

be too much,” MacGillivray said. The challenges MacGillivray faced are severely stressing a sector that was already in crisis when the pandemic hit, shining a harsh light on

a dysfunctional system that provides a crucial lifeline for working parents. The cost for families is astronomical, and workers’ wages are abysmal, especially in an expensive

state like Massachusetts.