Like virtually every industry in the world, the world of childcare was upended by COVID-19. If your center has been closed during the pandemic and is now making plans to reopen, you have a lot to consider. Keep reading for helpful information on how to safely welcome children back to your business.
Step 1 – Follow All Agency Guidelines
Your state has established specific policies for the safe reopening of childcare centers and protocols for day-to-day operations. A thorough review of the guidelines should be your first stop on the way to back-up-and-running. A good resource for state-by-state information was published by the Hunt Institute and can be found here.
We know your first priority is the health and safety of children and staff. Be sure to take all state guidelines into consideration as you set your plans into motion
Step 2 – Communication with Parents
In order to make your plans, you’ll need to know how many families will be sending their children back to your facility. Before planning to send their children back, parents will want to hear from you: what changes should they expect, what protocols will have changed, and how you plan to safeguard their children’s health. Transparency and clarity will help them feel secure in their decision to trust you with their child.
Be prepared to be flexible. Scheduling needs may have changed due to remote and hybrid work schedules. Soliciting clear and timely information from parents will be critical to ensure you have the space and the staffing to meet their needs.
Step 3 – Train Staff
Chances are, your entire staff is both eager and anxious to return to work. You’ll want to engage with them as much as you do your client families, if not more. Give yourself plenty of time in advance to assess their availability (remember, their home and childcare situations have likely changed as well). Be clear about changes to policies and procedures so that everyone knows exactly what to expect. 1-2 weeks prior to opening is the perfect time to schedule a pre-game staff meeting to walk through exactly how a pandemic day in daycare will go. Although, we all know that no two days in daycare are alike!
Step 4 – Have a Plan for Positives
What will you do if a child in your care begins to demonstrate symptoms? How you respond when one of your students, or even a member of their household, tests positive for COVID-19. Having a well-thought-out plan in place and communicated to all staff and parents is a critical step to reopening. Likely, your local department of health has established guidelines on who must quarantine and how they will be notified. You should also plan to have a designated room where a sick child can wait to be picked up, and plan for a deep cleaning and disinfecting of any room they spent time in. You’ll also want to consider what the threshold will be for shutting down in the event of rising community spread. You may follow the school district schedule or watch for a certain percentage of positive tests in your county.
Step 5 – Class Size and Organization
Smaller class sizes and social distancing will play a major role in your reopening strategy. You’ll want to follow state guidelines on how many children can be in each room, and you’ll want to keep them together throughout the day without interaction between different classes and teachers. Consider any seating arrangements, making sure children can be spaced out enough at large tables, or invest in individual desks or smaller seating options that can be distributed throughout the room to keep everyone 6 feet apart when possible. Make sure mats are spread as well for nap time, and thoroughly cleaned each day. Recess and outdoor playtime should be staggered.
Step 6 – Procure PPE and Cleaning Supplies
Masks or no masks? They may be required for staff and children over the age of 2, or they may just be strongly encouraged, depending on where your business operates. Will masks or face shields be provided for your staff or are they expected them to bring their own? (Ordering custom masks with your company logo might be a nice touch!) Other things you’ll need to purchase are hand sanitizer, soap, and cleaning supplies. These can be in short supply and hard to source, so reach out to your distributor as early as possible, or squirrel some away every time you shop.
Step 7 – Drop-Off & Pick-up Procedures
It’s important to limit the number of people who walk through your doors, so you’ll want to reimagine drop-off and pick-up time. Is it possible to create a curbside approach where parents can pull up, and a staff member can escort children to and from the vehicle? Once inside, will you have a dedicated team member taking temperatures? Ideally, children will wash their hands as soon as they enter the building and, of course, several times throughout the day!
Step 8 – Cleaning Procedures
Clean. And clean. And clean! Just about every inch of your facility will need to be wiped down each day. Make sure each member of your team knows what their responsibility is and whose job it is to disinfect what. All surfaces, toys, door handles, phones, keyboards, etc. should be wiped daily. You may want to keep a log so staff can keep track of what’s been done and what hasn’t, and to maintain accountability.
Step 9 – Communication with Parents (Again!)
Did we mention the importance of parent communication? 1-2 days before opening, you’ll want to call and/or email families to remind them of new procedures, manage expectations, and answer questions. You might consider adding a COVID FAQ section to your website for easy reference. We also highly recommend sharing updates during that first day back, when they will undoubtedly worry about how their little ones are adapting to the changes. You’ll want to reassure them that all is well and, at the end of the day, let everyone know how successful it was and that you can’t wait to do it again tomorrow.
Be sure to send an effusive thank you to your staff as well. And KUDOS to you! You did it!
Step 10 – Get the App
Wϋndercare was made for this! While we couldn’t have imagined all the challenges that childcare center directors would face in the last year, we built our app to handle ANY challenge and lighten your load. Wϋndercare helps with scheduling (so you can make sure your new classroom arrangements are covered), time management (no one has to touch a time clock or timesheet), communication (getting messages and alerts out to parents and staff as needed), and more!
Ready to learn more about what Wϋndercare can do for you as your center begins to welcome children back? Schedule a demo today!