- As parents consider whether to send their children back to daycare or school, they can look to childcare centres that remained open during the pandemic to learn what that might look like.
- YMCA USA served up to 40,000 children of essential workers during the pandemic and said there were reports of isolated coronavirus cases, but no outbreaks.
- The childcare centres took a number of precautions, including disinfecting surfaces every hour, not allowing children to share supplies, and organising no-contact activities.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As more people return to work, parents have to decide whether to send their children to camp, daycares, and school, knowing that it could potentially expose their kids to the coronavirus.
About two-thirds of parents have already decided that they will send their children back to school in the fall.
To get a sense of what daycares and schools might look like, and how protective they can be against the disease, families can look to childcare centres that remained open throughout the pandemic to serve children of essential workers.
Since March, YMCA of the USA has taken care of about 40,000 children of essential workers, Emily Waldren, YMCA senior manager of public relations, told Insider. There were some confirmed coronavirus cases, but they didn’t have any confirmed reports of cases leading to a larger outbreak, she said.
This may partially be because childcare centres don’t appear to be hotbeds for infections, according to childcare centre data collected by economist and Brown University professorEmily Oster.
But the YMCA centres also took a number of safety precautions, some of which required extra funding. That included modifying games, minimising the sharing of toys and supplies, and enforcing mask-wearing when appropriate.
Below are a list of measures the childcare centres have implemented during the pandemic.
Some programs got resourceful with the spaces they used to allow children to spread out
To make sure that the children had enough room to maintain a safe distance from one another, and weren’t too close to other groups, some YMCAS used basketball courts or boardrooms instead of standard classrooms, according to NPR.
Other programs got permission to use gymnasiums and cafeterias in schools that were closed due to the pandemic, according to North Country Public Radio.
Children were organised into small groups of 9 with 1 adult
Local YMCAs organised children into groups of nine, which were overseen by one adult, Waldren told Insider. The centres also limited groups from mixing with each other for activities like art and music.
Some childcare centres put siblings together in the same group, Waldren said. This way, if one sibling got sick, only one group would have to follow quarantining protocols.
Traditional children’s games, like tag, were reimagined to prevent physical contact
To enable kids to still play some of their favourite games that typically require touching, childcare centres got creative with new rules. For example, when children played tag, the kids would tap one another with a pool noodle, according to NPR.
Teachers also organised activities that didn’t require touching
Teachers came up with games and activities that the children could play together as a group without touching one another. Darlene Mount, who worked at a YMCA childcare centre for children of essential workers in New Jersey, told Time that she often took children in her class on walks and did yoga three times a day.
Parents and caregivers weren’t allowed on the premises
The YMCA implemented curb side drop offs and pick ups to limit the amount of people who entered the building.
Children got their own supplies and materials and equipment was cleaned after each use
Children were given their own materials to work with, such as art supplies, NPR reported. Children were not permitted to share equipment and each piece of equipment was cleaned between uses, Waldren told Insider.
Children and staff members’ temperatures were taken daily
At the start of each day, children and staff members took their temperature. Fever is a symptom of the coronavirus, but people can have the virus and not necessarily have fever.
Staff members wore masks, gloves, and gowns when possible
When possible, staff members wore masks, gloves, and gowns. At the YMCA in Minneapolis, the staff members wrote a children’s book to explain the concept to the kids to keep from scaring them, according to CBS Minnesota.
For younger kids, seeing adults in masks can be challenging for them, since they rely on facial expressions for validation. “When I ask questions and they can answer them, I love to see the smile on their faces when they get it right,” Mount told Time in June. “It’s hard that they can’t see my smile now, though. I’ve learned to smile with my eyes.”
Meals were eaten in classrooms and food was plated for children
Each group of kids ate together in their designated room, not in a cafeteria, Waldren told Insider. Each child’s meal was plated to avoid sharing utensils.
Rooms and surfaces were disinfected hourly and centres were deep cleaned each night
Every hour, surfaces that were touched frequently – including door handles, light switches, and toys – were disinfected. Every night, centres underwent deep cleanings.
The centres encouraged frequent handwashing and made the process fun
Children were expected to wash their hands well and often. To get them excited about the process, centres came up with different incentives. One group in Arizona would put a small drawing on each child’s hands before washing and they had to scrub until it disappeared, according to NPR.
- Read more:
- An economist who collected coronavirus data from 841 childcare centres explains how parents should decide whether to send kids back to school
- The riskiest and least risky activities you can do with kids this summer, according to an infectious-disease expert
- How 6 countries are opening up schools again, with temperature checks, outdoor classes, and spaced out desks
- Parents are watching kids in shifts and sharing caregivers as schools shut down across the US due to coronavirus fears