How Child Care and Preschools Are Seeing the Future
For child care and early child education, not only did things come to a screeching halt in March and April, it will take many stressful modifications to the way they operate in order for them to start offering their normal schedule.
The Gardner School is an academic preschool for children ages six weeks through preschool, and while there is only one location in Louisville, there are 20 located in six other states. According to marketing manager Joy Haynes, all Gardner School locations closed at the same time in March. Opening up locations has been more of a piecemeal approach simply because of different states’ schedules and regulations. The Louisville location opened on June 15. “This is certainly an exercise in being nimble and being aware so you can respond appropriately,” Joy says.
When The Gardner School opened, parents could no longer bring their children into the building but are met by their vehicles by Gardner School staff.
Children stay in one classroom during the day, and the playground equipment is sanitized between uses. “We’re trying to contain and keep the number of people who are interacting with each other inside the school really narrow,” Joy says.
“One of the things we already had in place and expanded while we were temporarily closed is the parent communication and engagement. We have an app where we share updates and a trust level with parents. When this happened and families were not coming to the school each day, it became even more important to keep that communication going. We consistently communicate updates and resources [parents] could use,” Joy says.
Amie Higgs has been a certified child care provider in her Louisville home since 1998. Like larger daycare centers, she had to cease operations in March, which led to considerable uncertainty. “I didn’t know if I would qualify for unemployment or not. [I was] making sure all of my parents had something in place for childcare,” she says. Typically, self-employed individuals are unable to collect unemployment, but Kentucky was flexible with its policy during COVID-19, for which Amie is grateful.
While some child care providers were given the green light to open in June, Amie will not be opening up right away because her husband will be undergoing cancer treatment. She plans to reopen in August, but even if she could open sooner, she says there is no way she would have sufficient amounts of personal protective equipment.
She has had to spend money to purchase items to ensure she is meeting state regulations, such as purchasing a no-touch thermometer, because every child will get his/her temperature taken before entering her home. “I know the state’s intentions are good,” she says.
According to Amie, certain toys, including stuffed animals, are no longer allowed. New cleaning procedures are required as are postings about those procedures. “If I have [play] phones, I have to make sure everyone has their own phone,” she says. “I’m going to have to buy another table so I can make sure I’m spacing my kids out. Art supplies cannot be shared anymore, so I’ve had to go buy everybody their own pack of crayons and their own box to put it in.”
For some childcare centers, the tasks that are now being required as a result of COVID-19 might be more onerous than they can reasonably afford and manage. Despite steps that child care providers take and their best intentions to follow guidelines, young children are simply unlikely to follow all of the sanitation and hygiene rules.
The pandemic is making child care look very different. “I’m thinking about how odd this is that I’m now going to have to tell kids, ‘Don’t share those,’ when they’ve been told just the opposite,” Amie says.
P.S. Read a mother’s thoughts on family walks, a time when her children seem most open to share their thoughts and their fears.