Staying Strong and Viable for Children and Families
It is fair to say that this has been one of the most challenging times for your early childhood programs. The pandemic has turned everything upside down and made everything seem so daunting. In a workshop that I recently attended, the speaker made a statement that made me think the situation we are in seem a little more doable. He said, “Focus on solving your customer’s problems rather than your own problems”. He stated that in the end it would also benefit you and your program. So, what may be some of the ways that you can help parents feel assured that you are doing everything you can to be there for them in this time of crisis?
Communicate with families about what you are doing in the areas of health, safety and cleaning.
Surviving Financially During the Pandemic
- Revisit emergency contact information with each family so you can make sure you still have all the correct information.
- Updated your parent handbook to include a pandemic policy. Possibly include information on hand-washing, drop-off procedures, playground guidelines, etc.
- Inform the parents what the morning health check will be for their child when they come back. Having a welcome routine will help you understand each child better, help the child feel comfortable and safe. Since it will take a few minutes to conduct the health check, take this time to communicate with the parents about how they and their child are doing. A Morning Health Check Poster can be found on the PUC ECE web page under Helpful Resource Documents
- No touch thermometer options: Ino Thermo or Infrared Thermometers
- Inform parents about what you will be doing to keep the preschool clean and disinfected by sending a note home explaining exactly what your cleaning procedures will be. Review with the teachers the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. (see the PUC ECE Directors’ Guide)
- Inform parents what you will do to provide a hygienic environment for them and their child. Provide hand sanitizer at the entrance of your school and near the sign-in and out station for them and their child. Remember that hand sanitizer must be 60% alcohol to be the most effective. Share how the children will be washing their hands upon entering the classroom and throughout the day. Stagger entry to the Center.
- Inform families about how you will arrange the classrooms to provide room for social distancing with the preschool children by arranging the furniture to give more space. Open windows daily to air out the classroom and placing cots and cribs no less than 6 feet apart, if possible, with children facing head to toe at nap time. Spend more time outside in play and learning by setting up an outdoor classroom.
I attended a workshop hosted by CQEL (Californians for Quality Early Learning) and presented by Kris Murry, the author of The Ultimate Childcare Marketing Guide. This book was given out at our 2017 Directors meeting. Here is what she shared about what others are doing to survive the mandated closures or large drop in enrollment:
- If they stayed open, they charged full tuition. As some charged full tuition, they offered discounts such as 10% off in the summer months or off registration for the next year.
- If the Center was closed or the child did not attend while the Center was open, they charged 25-50% of the tuition. They explained to parents that in charging a percentage of the tuition it allows the Center to stay open and provide a spot for their child when they return. They also explain that it allows the Center to provide essential care and e-learning for families. This is why you are still paying for childcare while its closed news segment.
- Some Centers are allowing families in hardship to pay less offset with families who can and want to help others.
- Consider not raising tuition until 2021 to help offset the hardship parents are going through.
Parent Communication and Marketing
- Spread the word far and wide and by that, I mean in emails, social media, preschool web site, etc., that you and your staff know how important it is for families to have their child in a healthy, safe and clean environment. Share what you are doing to more than meet the requirements in those areas.
- Have story time with the children via your Facebook page or send home crafts and activities for them to do. Keep up communication with each child and family and do this several times a week.
- No longer able to do in person tours for perspective parents? No problem. Provide virtual tours of your program where you have a teacher follow you with a camera phone as you give the tour and answer questions live. Not comfortable with live? You can prerecord a tour for families to view.
When you begin to have more families ready to go back to work and send their child back to your ECE program, plan a welcome back celebration. It could be balloons and flowers, breakfast to go bags, etc. Celebrate friends, family and blessings that parents and teachers can get back to work with more and more hours each day.
Happy teacher appreciation week! The Pacific Union Office of Education would like you to know that we appreciate all that you do and that you are in our thoughts and prayers everyday. Check out the Pacific Union ECE Professionals Facebook page to see a special recorded message from our education team to you.
Blessings to you all!