Whether or not your families and staff are ready for it, schools are reopening. And as much as it’s important to keep your parents informed of what to expect when their children return and how they can help make the transition smoother, you’ll need to get your childcare staff aligned around the goal of keeping children safe by preparing and training them to uphold your new COVID-19 policy.
Consider implementing these five strategies to assure you have a COVID-ready faculty:
Have backup childcare staff ready.
Unfortunately, the reality is that your staff can become sick at any time, so it’s important to be sure that you’ll have a qualified individual ready to step in at a moment’s notice. Keep a pool of substitute teachers on call to increase the likelihood that there will be someone available to help.
Understandably, parents may have concerns about new employees around their child. Ease parents’ minds by sharing about the new substitutes’ credentials, experience, style, and fun facts in your newsletter well before their first lesson.
Pro Tip: Consider reaching out to former teachers or even other schools in your area to work together to plan for teacher absences. Keep in mind that there may be newly qualified teachers who’ve recently graduated from college looking for their first job or teachers whose school may still be closed and are seeking employment.
Establish your COVID-19 policy.
Before sending their children back to school, parents will want to know what guidelines you’ve put in place, and your teachers will need to understand how to enforce them. Here are some procedures you may need to consider for your childcare staff to follow in addition to your state’s guidelines:
- Create a system for recording and reporting on staff and child wellness checks and attendance. Of course you’ll want to uphold the privacy of the individual, but you can produce reports to parents with the stats to keep it as anonymous as you can.
- Provide training to your childcare staff on things like how to properly disinfect their classrooms, wash their hands, and handle facial coverings. You may want to additionally hang signs as reminders throughout your classrooms.
- Check temperatures of children and staff upon arrival at school. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees (38.0 degrees C) or higher should not be permitted in your facility.
- Teach staff how to comply with social distancing guidelines and provide examples, such as:
- Reducing child-staff ratios in your classrooms. This may require that you use other areas of your facility as classrooms. Work with parents to determine whether 100% of your children are returning to make the best plan, going forward.
- Not permitting parents inside the building. Instead, consider setting up a pickup and dropoff station outside your school doors. (Pro tip: To put parents at ease, send them a photo or video of their child. Your childcare management software may have a messaging tool with this feature.)
- Staggering children’s bathroom breaks and handwashing to prevent gathering in lines around the sink and bathroom.
- Staggering outside play to prevent classes from intermingling.
- Keep mats 6 feet apart, in head-to-toe fashion, at naptime.
- Create “play pods,” or areas 6 feet apart where children can play at a safe distance.
- Take attendance virtually. Equip your childcare staff with a mobile device or let them use their own to track attendance more quickly. (Pro tip: If you use a childcare management system like EZCare, this can be done with one click with a companion mobile app.)
- Opt for paperless billing. Strongly encourage parents to pay tuition online. Your childcare management software may allow you to email invoices to parents and allow them to pay through their mobile device or through a parent portal.
- Keep children in the same classroom throughout the entire day. If the children would normally change classrooms for a lesson, consider instead having your teachers switch classrooms.
- Provide oversized, button-down t-shirts for one-time use for staff and recommend that they keep their hair up when consoling or holding a child to reduce childcare staff contact with child’s secretions. (After all, it’s unrealistic to expect children and teachers to not have any contact at all.)
- Keep children a safe distance apart in the classroom by creating “pods” for them to try to stay within. Duct tape can be used to create these boxes on the floor. This allows for teachers to better keep supplies, toys, books, etc. to a single child at a time and clean between use.
For a full list of the CDC’s recommended childcare and school guidelines, check out the CDC’s website.
Get on the same page.
Be sure to introduce any new and/or temporary staff members to your other staff early and include them in all the same training from the very beginning so everyone can work cohesively together with the new precautions in place. Host a socially-distanced training at your facility or hold a Zoom meeting with your childcare staff prior to your doors reopening to ensure that goals are understood and that all of your staff’s questions are answered.
Identify your COVID-19 champion.
Select one of your staff to be a source of truth for families about your COVID-19 policy. This person should not be assigned other duties at the times of pickup and dropoff so that they may be available for parents’ questions and concerns. This person should also be responsible for:
- Tracking your childcare staff’s compliance with your new, temporary policy
- Overseeing the logging and sign-off of staff training
- Monitoring trends in child and staff attendance and symptoms (or lack thereof)
- Balancing staff-child ratios
With children’s and families’ health in your hands, the stakes are very high. Reasonably, your teachers will feel a whole new level of stress with the additional responsibility of maintaining your COVID-19 policy, on top of their regular duties to provide quality education to your children. It’s important to remain compassionate toward them and understand that they may need additional guidance as they navigate teaching in the new normal, as well as more consideration for their mental health and wellbeing. Consider the following ideas to make the most important job in the world a bit easier right now:
- Consider allowing childcare staff to take more mental health breaks.
- Provide additional resources to help teachers address and manage their mental health.
- Help teachers with their lesson plans by providing them with ideas they can incorporate, as well as games they can have the children play, while maintaining social distancing.
Working and living in a pandemic is new for everyone. Give your teachers and parents peace of mind by taking action as early as possible to ensure that they are informed and have plenty of time to prepare themselves. And perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself and ask for help when you need it. Staying on top of your own mental and physical health, as well as allowing for partnership with your parents and childcare staff will be key to getting through this unusual time in education and child care.