At every WACC board meeting we start with a State of the Center roundup. It’s only fitting that I start this school year with a State of the Center for all of you. This year is unlike any other we have ever had or could ever have even imagined. I have moments when I think to myself, I feel like I’m watching an apocalyptic movie, and I’m sure that I’m not alone in this. We’re not just dealing with the Covid monster, but also with the devastating fires that have caused over 19 straight days of spare the air warnings. The Bay Area could use a break! If we adults are having a hard time imagine what our children must be feeling?!
We have changed almost every fundamental aspect of our program to help create an environment for our kids to thrive in. WACC re-opened our doors in June to provide a modified summer camp program for a small number of children. During the 8-week summer camp the kids were able to interact with their peers, create, be active, and learn by doing! In August we were able to keep our doors open by supporting distance learning with four small cohorts of children: Little Acres, K-1st Koalas, 2nd-3rd R2D3, 4th-5th Club 45. We’ve gone from 170 children to 48 children!
Our staff has been incredible as they dove right into all the new procedures and protocols that are now required. They’ve taken temperatures daily, worn masks for 8 hours a day in 100+ temperatures, sanitized toys & playgrounds, provided activities, all while easing any anxieties that both kids & parents may have.
As a center we are committed to establishing an environment that is clean but not sterile. It is important for children to walk into our building and feel the familiar. Our practices ensure teachers are sanitizing & cleaning used materials throughout the day. We are also fortunate enough to have extra help each night to deep clean all heavily touched surfaces like door handles, & bathrooms. Maintaining a clean environment has always been a priority of mine but it’s even more important during Covid times.
At this point we have been open for a little over 3 months without a positive case of Covid! While I’m thrilled to share this information I almost hesitate to. We have been lucky! With the spread of this virus no one is immune. We will continue in our efforts, but the probability is that it is not if, but when we will face a positive case. The only thing that we can do is be prepared for when that time does come. We’ve put a plan together and are committed to communicating with our families when we need to.
There are so many unknowns with this virus that many are suffering from fear and anxiety over making decisions about childcare. You must ask yourself what is best for my family? Is childcare an option for us? Do we want to risk exposure? “We don’t quite understand the infection dynamics, and we don’t really know the transmission dynamics,” he said, so parents will have to balance the relative lack of information against their own need for childcare. – Dr. Jefferey Gunzenhauser chief medical officer for LA county
After a tiring six months what kind of a toll is isolation having on children? Often you hear experts talking about the social emotional needs of children. So, what does that mean? “There’s a key connection between having good peer interactions and social emotional well-being. In certain populations, we’re seeing that our depression and anxiety are heightening with continued quarantining. We have to start talking about calculated risk and taking some more.” – Rebecca Rialon Berry, clinical associate professor of child & adolescent psychiatry @ NYU Langone Health
During these elementary years, time with friends allow for social skills to sharpen. Children at this age are learning empathy. Peer interactions help provide opportunities to examine and discuss contrasting ideas of conflict & compromise. School and childcare provide a space for competition in sports and academics that help children learn about winning, losing, and managing conflict. Dr. Karen Bierman, Director of Child Study Center @ Penn State goes into a little bit more detail by discussing “Growing complexities of children’s relationships-the changing roster of best friends and peer groups and allowing children the freedom to manage challenging emotions like jealousy.” How can our children learn to navigate if not given the opportunities? These connections are vital for social-emotional development. We are limiting these opportunities during this pandemic. So, we try to have virtual play dates because that’s better than nothing, right?! Short answer is yes. Something is better than nothing! But digital play dates aren’t enough for the elementary age. It is extremely important to be physically present the younger you are. “Social emotional learning happens when they are physically present with peers learning to negotiate and share. You can’t do that over zoom. That neurochemical response that comes from human touch is real.” – Dr. Rialon Berry.
In my opinion children need to experience some sort of physical interaction with their peers. Let’s try to find a responsible way to give our children the interactions that they need and crave. Spend time, physically distanced of course with your Pod. Meet up for a bike ride, chalk your driveway’s up, have a picnic in the backyard, or maybe even a neighborhood movie night under the stars! No matter what you do let’s all find ways to keep those connections with others.