Mostly outdoor classes for preschoolers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic have provided a little normalcy in this weird time we’re all living in. Smaller class sizes, self-contained cohorts, and increased sanitizing protocols create a safe, nurturing space for everyone.
How big will classes be?
The new DCFS & CDC licensing regulations require stable, self-contained groups of children to reduce possible exposures. DCFS has increased group sizes back to 18 children for 3 and 4 year olds and 12 children in the Two’s and Young Three’s classes. Until we are advised it is safe to do so, groups will not share space or intermingle with other children at Covenant.
Will my child have to wear a mask/ face covering?
Experience over the past 6 months of in person learning has shown us that kids are great at wearing face coverings when at school. Being with peers and adults who are also wearing face masks certainly helps. And, there is always a difference in behavior between home and school. Children will wear a face mask both indoors and outside until we are advised it is safe to no longer require this.
Will classes be outside more often?
Experts recommend the outdoors as the safest space for people to be together during this pandemic. However, after a year and a half of experience with childcares offering in person care, organizing bodies have recognized that young children are not spreading the virus when wearing face masks even when indoors. Covenant is uniquely positioned with our focus on nature and our outdoor spaces for the children to be outside for a good portion of the day. Two separate outdoor spaces (Turtle Playscape and set back area of the parking lot) allow classrooms to spend a good portion of the day outdoors. All classes will also spend some time indoors in their classrooms daily. Groups will rotate using spaces, with disinfecting occurring between groups.
What kinds of activities will be outdoors?
In addition to the sand pit, mud kitchen, planting beds, climber, wheelbarrows, rain barrel, chalk and bikes, we are using our outside spaces as outdoor classrooms, with art projects, easel painting, music activities, group games & dancing, building, table activities such as legos and puzzles, books on blankets, and portable writing stations. The outdoors offers rich opportunities for all children.
What if it rains?
We will seek to be outside as much as possible. However, on very rainy or very cold days, children will be in their classrooms and in the two indoor playrooms. Shared play areas will be disinfected between groups. Classrooms have been arranged to allow for more individual and small group play areas to allow for more social distancing.
Do I need to provide a mask for my child?
Parents will be responsible for ensuring that children attend school with a clean face mask every day. We recommend that children come to school each day with at least 2-3 clean face masks – they will be changed if they get wet or otherwise soiled. Covenant will have disposable children’s masks in the event one is needed.
Will children be able to play together?
Yes! Children will not be prevented from playing together. We will create lots of opportunities for children to socially distance both in the classroom and outside, often playing, drawing, or building near each other. However, because children will be wearing a face mask at all times, we will not be enforcing a 6 ft distance when playing outside or in the classroom.
What happens at snack?
When the weather is nice enough, children will enjoy snack outdoors in individually spaced hoops. All children will bring an individual water bottle to school every day that they will use during snack. When indoors, snack time will either be done as a group in the large playroom in individually spaced hoops or in a separate “snack room” where a few children at a time can eat snack with a teacher in an appropriately distanced manner during choice time. Lots of great conversation and socialization happens in these small groupings! Snack will no longer be family style but will be plated and served by a teacher.
What is the new drop off procedure?
Drop off and pick up for the multi-age classrooms is done outside at a designated space. Drop off for the Turtle Twos and Honeybee Threes will be indoors at the classroom door. Caregivers will accompany children into the building, help them use the toilet and wash their hands and then say goodbye at the classroom door. At the start of the year, alternate arrangements may be made to help children transition into the classroom or outdoor area. Parents are expected to screen children daily before coming to school for any symptoms of Covid – if children are displaying any symptoms (cough, runny nose, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle pains, loss of taste or smell) or with a temperature of 100.4 or above, they should remain at home.
Can adults come in the building?
During the Covid pandemic we have been limiting non-essential visitors from entering the building, such as prospective families, parent volunteers, and vendors. We are looking forward to welcoming all families back in once covid mitigations are lessened.
How will I stay connected with my child’s teachers?
Teachers will be posting regularly to Seesaw (an easy-to-use phone app) to keep parents connected with what’s going on in the classroom daily. Teachers post photos, videos, as well as notes and written updates of the day. Parents or caregivers will also be able to touch base briefly at drop off and pick up. Teachers are always available via e-mail as well.
If my child is sent home, when can he/she return?
If displaying symptoms (fever of 100.4 or higher, new cough, runny nose, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, loss of taste or smell), your child will need to remain home and see their doctor. The doctor may perform a COVID test. Your child may return once a negative PCR test has been received. If a COVID test is not recommended, they will need to remain at home until they have been symptom free without medication for at least 48 hours.
What if a child or teacher is diagnosed with COVID?
Parents & staff should inform the director immediately if a positive COVID test is received. While privacy policies prevent us from revealing who had the positive COVID diagnosis, Covenant will immediately inform all individuals who have potentially been exposed and the Skokie Health Department takes over. Depending on the level of exposure to others, either the classroom or the program would close for a period of time – the health department will determine whether it’s necessary to close for a short time for thorough cleaning or for a period of 10 days for quarantine purposes.
What if a child or staff’s family member is diagnosed with COVID?
If anyone in a staff or child’s household is diagnosed positive with COVID, that staff member or child must remain at home for 10 days to quarantine. Individuals with this level of exposure may not test out of the quarantine period per the CDC and IDPH. The Skokie Health Department will be involved in any issues of quarantine and self-isolation.
My child’s father is feeling sick but my child is completely healthy. Can I send her to school?
If anyone in your child’s house is feeling any symptoms (headache, congestion, sore throat, fever, loss of taste or smell) we ask that you keep your child home. Because of the highly contagious nature of this virus, the Village of Skokie is recommending extreme caution to ensure that only 100% healthy children attend school on a daily basis.
How do I decide whether to send my child to preschool or not?
No decision will be right for every family. Many families depend on preschool so they can work. Even if working from home, productivity is certainly lessened with a little one around. While the risk of exposure to COVID-19 does increase as you and your child venture back out into the world, this risk should be weighed against the social-emotional and psychological benefits of interaction with others. The stay at home period was a challenge for many children who missed seeing friends and teachers and missed the routine and variety of activities they did in school. The stay at home period was a challenge for many adults who missed seeing their friends and missed a few hours on their own so they could be psychologically and physically refreshed and ready for quality time with their child. Make the decision that is best for your own health (physically and mentally) and the health of your family and your child. We will take every precaution possible to ensure the health and wellbeing of the children and families in our care while providing a fun and nurturing environment.
Will these policies remain in place for the entire school year?
Information and recommendations are changing rapidly during this pandemic. Current CDC and DCFS recommendations of face coverings, frequent and thorough sanitizing and social distancing are being enforced at Covenant and will be for the foreseeable future. Planning for the Fall 2022 school year assumes these recommendations will remain in place. As recommendations are changed by our licensing organizations, Covenant will adapt accordingly.
What can families do to help prepare children for a return to school?
There are a number of videos and stories that help to illustrate and explain for children why people are wearing face masks, what Coronavirus is, and what to expect when they go back to preschool. Resources are available on our website with videos and articles to help you and your child prepare to return to school. Help your child get used to wearing a face mask by finding them one with a fun pattern and comfortable style. Practice wearing it for a short time every day – while biking to the corner of your block or when accompanying you to the store and gradually extend the time. Our experience these past months have shown us that young children have tolerated the mask wearing unusually well – seeing their teachers and friends also wearing a mask has seemed to make this a non-issue while at school.
Please reach out if you have other questions you’re wondering about – chances are someone else is wondering the same thing!