While many child care centers shuttered early on in the pandemic, they provide a highly necessary service that working parents — called back to their offices in April or May — most desperately need. In turn, those centers have had to get innovative to provide the needed services for what many are saying is a “new normal.”
At Minds in Motion Learning Center in Greer, not only did they not close their doors due to the virus — aside from one day in March to deep-clean the entire center — but they’ve been able to meet new needs by innovating on the fly.
“One of the first things we did was bulk up on sanitizing and purchasing those things that would help us keep our building clean and safe, like thermometers, disinfectant spray and bleach,” says Melissa Eubanks, owner and director of Minds in Motion. In addition, the center instituted new policies: a door drop-off process so no parents came inside the building; temperature checks; class “pods”; and a weekly deep-clean “down to the doormats, because kids are on the floor all the time.”
After a few weeks, with relative success and no cases of the virus, the center opened a virtual learning program to help school-age children with daily schoolwork while their parents were at work.
“We really just needed to facilitate their work, but that required some new ideas,” says Eubanks. “How could we alleviate stress for the parents and the kids? How many teachers would we need?”
The virtual learning program took off — and has expanded in the new school year, as a partnership with Joi Wellness to house the program in a place with limited traffic and reduced personal contact. To this day, the center has seen no cases of the virus among their students.
But Eubanks isn’t the only one who adapted to a new format under COVID-19. At Rocky Creek Christian Academy, another virtual hub has cropped up, following the Greenville County Schools’ schedule and providing oversight to virtual students.
“With the increase in cases of COVID, and after several parental concerns of lack of child care as well as concerns regarding social distancing in transportation, the idea came to us to meet what we deemed was the biggest need in the safest way possible,” says Lacie Earl, the co-director of Rocky Creek Christian Academy’s new virtual program. “It is located in our facility, and students are not only provided with breakfast, lunch and snack, they also get a chance to have a structured and consistent schedule for this academic school year.”
We talk to the children about COVID and the things they are incurring constantly. It’s a stressful time for adults, but it is definitely stressful for children who are trying to figure out how to navigate all these changes.” – Melissa Eubanks, owner and director, Minds in Motions
Across town, Lauren Briles, the franchise owner of Primrose School of Greenville and Primrose School of Midtown Greenville, sees the same challenges.
“These are difficult times for everyone, and we are all trying to work together to help as much as we can,” Briles says. “Child care providers have stepped up in order to accommodate the families that have dual working parents and are unable to do e-learning at home, and many of us have taken on more classes and transformed space into classroom space in order to accommodate the needs of the families with elementary aged children.”
Still, Briles echoes a concern that many parents have — one that is not simply educational in nature.
“Personally, I am very concerned about the socio-emotional tolls that this is taking on everyone, but we are happy to be able to provide a safe and happy place for our children to come and play and learn,” she says.
That sentiment is one not lost on Eubanks, who has centered much of the programs at Minds in Motion around mindfulness and well-being.
“We talk to the children about COVID and the things they are incurring constantly,” she says. “It’s a stressful time for adults, but it is definitely stressful for children who are trying to figure out how to navigate all these changes.”
The CDC recommends child care centers:
- Remember to supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Masks should NOT be put on babies and children under age 2 because of the danger of suffocation.
- Require sick children and staff to stay home.
- Communicate to parents the importance of keeping children home when they are sick.
- Communicate to staff the importance of being vigilant for symptoms and staying in touch with facility management if or when they start to feel sick.
- Establish procedures to ensure children and staff who come to the child care center sick or become sick while at your facility are sent home as soon as possible.
- Keep sick children and staff separate from well children and staff until they can be sent home.
- Plan to have an isolation room or area (such as a cot in a corner of the classroom) that can be used to isolate a sick child.