Letter: There are challenges to resuming child care services
Hopefully this letter will provide a clearer understanding of when child care will be able to fully reopen in Steamboat Springs. While currently enrolled families are receiving regular updates from their child’s early childhood program, we thought it would be helpful for employers and the community at large to appreciate the challenges present in resuming child care services.
Currently the Centers for Disease Control has specific guidance for child care — “No matter the level of transmission in the community, every child care program should have a plan in place to protect staff, children and their families from the spread of COVID-19.” As of last week, we were told by CDC that we should consider all guidance from them to be interim, as it changes frequently. The most recent iteration is from April 21.
The guidance includes implementing practices like:
- Curbside drop off and pick up of children, limiting direct contact between staff and parents, and parents would not be allowed in the building (how would it feel to leave your baby in their car seat on the sidewalk, return to your car and wait for a teacher to then pick up your child?)
- Everyone 2 and older would be wearing masks, children and adults (talk about herding cats)
- Social distancing strategies (have you met 4-year-olds?)
- Teachers would need full personal protective equipment (when will those even be more widely available?)
- Arrival health screenings including a visual scan of signs of illness and temperature checks, conducted from behind a barrier (glass or plastic window) or with full PPE (facemask, eye protection or shield, gloves and gown)
- Intensifying cleaning and disinfection (a child touches a toy, and it is removed for sanitation, or one child down the slide, and no one else may go until it’s been fully disinfected)
Other national organizations with expertise have even more recommendations to keep everyone safe.
Several national professional organizations have made strong statements that child care and early learning programs should not be open at this time. The National Association for the Education of Young Children and Child Care Aware of America have stated “if states and districts are closing schools, then they also must close the child care system.” While Governor Polis has stated that schools will be closed for the remainder of this school year, he also stated that child care will reopen with strict precautions. Some of those are listed above and it is not realistic at this time to expect child care, at least in our programs, to reopen.
We are here to serve and desperately miss the children and their families, our colleagues and the work that we and our early childhood teachers do. We have an ethical obligation to practice responsible behavior based on our knowledge of how children develop and learn.
Our goal is to open as soon as it is safe to do so, but we are also weighing what will this feel like for the children?
Tami Havener, Discovery Learning Center
Melinda Maas, Heritage Park Preschool
Kim Martin, Young Tracks Preschool and Child Care Center
Betsy Taylor, Holy Name Preschool
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