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Tips and Resources for Reopening your Classroom or Program

May 28, 2020    |   COVID-19 Resources & Information

As early learning professionals begin to think about reopening their early learning programs, they find they must make plans despite many unanswered questions. With so much still unknown, it can be overwhelming to try to create plans and protocols that keep you, your staff, and your children safe. In this article, we share a few tips for reopening your program, as well as resources that can help answer additional questions.

Tips for Planning and Reopening

  • There are still a lot of unknowns. Remember, while there are several things you can do to get started on your reopening plans, there are still a lot of unknowns. Because this is an unprecedented situation, we still do not have all of the information. The CDC website is a good place to start.  California will be releasing additional guidelines for reopening during the coming week to ten days. Please continue to regularly check the websites listed at the bottom of this article to learn about changes and updates.

  • Talk with your staff. The first step toward reopening will be to talk with your staff. Ensure that educators are healthy and able to return to work. Discuss plans for reopening, including new protocols, new rules for families, new daily schedules, etc. Make sure that all employees are on the same page so that if parents ask questions, they will be getting consistent answers from everyone. Parents are likely fearful, concerned, or worried and the best way to make them feel comfortable is to show that you and your team have plans in place to keep their little ones as healthy as possible.

  • Talk with parents. The changes to your policies will be a lot of information for families to take in. If possible, it is best to share the information with them before they return to your program. Have the new policies written out and sent via email, as well as posted around your center as reminders. Give families an opportunity to ask questions, share concerns, and make sure to remind them that you are doing everything you can do to keep their children safe and healthy.

    • Many programs are personally calling parents to find out whether or not their children will be returning when they reopen, to get an estimate of the expected number of children before finalizing plans. These conversations can also provide parents with an opportunity to ask questions before their children return.

  • Decide what works for your center. You will be making changes to daily routines, which might include more thorough and more regular cleaning and sanitizing, updating sick policies, enacting health screenings at drop-off, updating classroom schedules, setting new rules and guidelines for children and staff hygiene, making plans for different caregiving routines, and anything else you feel is appropriate and necessary. While some of these changes will be based on licensing guidelines, others will be a judgement call as you decide what works for your program.

  • Consider new practices for classrooms. Classrooms will need to be broken up into smaller spaces and play materials will need to be divided into individual packets for each child. Sharing materials should be avoided to lessen the chance of spreading germs. A few ideas are shared below.

    • Use furniture to separate the classroom to avoid large groups of children being in the same space.

    • Temporarily put away soft materials, including dress-up items that are more difficult to sanitize.

    • Put away sensory tables and other shared materials.

    • Make ziploc baggies for each child with their own blocks, crayons, and other materials to avoid sharing. Store in cubbies to keep separate and sanitize frequently.

    • Encourage educators to wear smocks, aprons, or bring a change of clothes to avoid exposing children to unnecessary germs on clothing.

    • Set out individual sign-in sheets with individual pens to avoid parents touching the same pens when they sign in.

    • Take a break from “family style” meals. To avoid children sharing serving materials, have individual snacks and lunches prepared for each child.

    • Encourage social distancing for staff, parents and children.

Things to Remember

  • Drop-offs might be hard. Children have been at home with their parents for a long time, and will take some time to readjust to their former routines.

  • Support parents just as much as children. COVID-19 has placed high levels of stress on parents who have been caring for their children at home. Expect parents to be overwhelmed and a little bit fearful of the risks of sending their children back to group care. Be ready to answer questions, over communicate new policies, and be patient with the inevitable confusion that will come with new protocols.

  • Partner with families. Ask how you can support them and be clear about how they can support you!

  • Stay focused on the goal of the new policies– a healthy, happy learning environment. Many of these new policies put added stress on educators who already had a lot on their plates. While some of these new policies and rules might be frustrating and challenging, it is important to remember that they are set into place for the health and safety of you and the children.

  • Know that revenue and cost projections will be a moving target. With so much uncertainty, the finances of your program are going to be tricky to navigate in the coming months. To help, there are several webinars that are addressing financial management for nonprofits and child care programs. Click here to learn more.

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