TAMPA — Police cars waited outside and a helicopter circled overhead. Officers on horses trotted down the street. Then more pedaled by on bikes.
It made for a quiet nap time.
"Here we are in the thick of things, and everything's just been very peaceful," said Sandy McGuinness, owner of the Carlton Academy Day School — nestled right inside the Republican National Convention event zone set aside by city officials, and right along the parade route. "I wish every day were like this."
While other downtown Tampa businesses shut down for the week, the little multicolored day care on N Brush Street had prepared to ride out the RNC storm.
Employees warned parents to come early to avoid traffic. They handed out placards with the day care's logo to help parents make it past police barricades. They prepared to keep the kids indoors for recess if necessary.
But, other than the armed guards outside, Tuesday felt like just another school day.
"Pretty easy," said Joni Puskas, who dropped off her 2-year-old son, Mikey, early Tuesday morning.
Like many other parents, Puskas didn't have much of a choice but to bring her child to school. She owns a dance studio in South Tampa and she has taken a lot of vacation time this year.
Plus, she said, "He loves coming to school. … It's more fun than being cooped up in the house."
Wasn't she worried about the potential for RNC craziness right outside the door? Not really, Puskas said, as another police car drove by. And if it did get dangerous, she was ready to drive straight back to scoop up Mikey.
"I will get to my child, come hell or high water," she said.
That was the sentiment among most of the other parents — fewer than half of Carlton's usual roster — who braved the uncertain streets to the day care on Tuesday.
"I'll be keeping an eye on the news," said Marc McGinnis, with 7-month-old son, Delcan.
McGinnis works in information technology, from home. He could have kept Declan home, as he had on Monday when Tropical Storm Isaac closed Carlton Academy, but he wanted to keep things as normal as possible for both of them.
Molly Smith, who lives in Safety Harbor and works in downtown Tampa, had a good feeling from the beginning. She left her house early to drop off 3-year-old Alyssa and was pleasantly surprised at the lack of traffic.
"I thought it would be a mob scene," she said.
She reached for Alyssa's hand —"Come on, sweetheart" — and led her through the little white picket fence toward the classrooms.
Outside, another police car drove by.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at [email protected] or (813)226-3337.