Sending your little one to daycare can be stressful, but the prospect of sending them to daycare in the middle of a pandemic is (for many) overwhelming. After all, from general health and wellness to the facilities COVID safety procedures, there are a lot of factors to consider. Plus, we don’t want to endanger our little love bugs. The last thing we want is to see them hurting or sick. But for many parents — parents like Rachael Hendricks — daycare is a necessity, not a choice. It’s the only way they can function and work.
“I kept my child enrolled in daycare so that I can be a better employee,” Hendricks tells Scary Mommy. “While I realize there is a risk sending him, it’s essential [for me and him].”
Meredith Linley, an executive director and mother of two, shares a similar experience. “I work from home, pandemic or not, and having my three-year-old son with me was wearing on me. Trying to work first thing in the morning and late at night wasn’t working. I couldn’t get enough done. Plus, as Zoom calls became the standard, I couldn’t manage with a VERY active toddler around. So I put him [back] into daycare,” Linley explains. “And while we feel extremely safe, it’s also bittersweet.”
The good news is there are steps your child’s daycare can (and should) take to keep them safe. Here’s everything you need to know about sending your child to daycare during the COVID crisis.
Daily Health Checks and Screenings
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teachers, staff members, administrators, and children should be screened on a daily basis. “Persons who have a fever of 100.4 or above or other signs of illness should not be admitted to the facility,” the CDC writes. However, parents should also “be on the alert for signs of illness in their children and keep them home when they are sick.” In other words, if your child shows any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, coughing, shortness of breath, new loss of sense and smell), you should keep them home and get them tested for COVID.
Disinfecting Protocols and Procedures
Long before the COVID crisis, the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (NRC) developed a series of health and safety standards for early care and education settings, called Caring for Our Children. Per these guidelines, childcare providers were expected to regularly clean, sanitize, and disinfect surfaces and toys and not much has changed. The CDC lays out a similar recommendation. However, the CDC also states that objects and/or toys that cannot be cleaned or sanitized should not be used.
Classroom Setup and Social Distancing Policies
While social distancing requirements vary from city to city and state to state, the CDC recommends tables, desks, workstations, play stations, cribs, and chairs be spaced appropriately — i.e., children should be six feet apart.
Mixing children is also discouraged.
“If possible, child care classes should include the same group each day, and the same child care providers should remain with the same group each day,” CDC recommendations state. And meal and playground times should be staggered — so classes do not mingle with one another.
Classes should also be small. Linley tells Scary Mommy her son is one of six in the class.
Testing and Isolation
No matter how safe and secure your child’s facility is, someone will (more likely than not) become sick — with strep, RSV, COVID-19, or the flu. Daycares and preschools should have an isolation room or area ready, in case a child falls ill while in school. Disinfecting protocols should be followed, and if COVID-19 is confirmed in a child or staff member, CDC guidelines should be followed, i.e. windows and doors should be opened, the facility should be closed for at least 24 hours, and all surfaces should be sanitized, cleaned, or disinfected.
Teachers, administrators, childcare providers, and children over the age of two should wear facial coverings and/or masks unless they are actively eating or drinking. No exceptions. However, “masks should NOT be put on babies and children under age two because of the danger of suffocation,” the CDC explains.
Masks, cleanings, and screenings aside, many daycares are using technology to their benefit. JoAnn Kintzel, the CEO of Procare, tells Scary Mommy “parents can now stay updated on their child’s learning progress, activities, meals, and more via mobile app updates. Parents should also be able to use said apps to pay their bill,” and Hendricks tells Scary Mommy her school uses QR codes.
“Child check-in and check-out is completed using mobile phones and a special code.”
Conferences and meetings can also be done virtually, via Zoom, FaceTime, text, and/or email.
In addition to the aforementioned safety procedures, there are a few other things daycares and childcare facilities can do to keep you, your children, and their teachers and staff members safe.
- Daycare facilities should use contactless forms of payment, when possible.
- Drop off and pick up time should be staggered, and childcare providers should meet and greet children outside.
- Visitors should be limited. Anyone who has to enter the building or facility should be screened.
- Snacks and meals should be served in a small setting, like your child’s classroom, not a cafeteria.
- Clear, plastic barriers or partitions should be used wherever possible.
- Cribs and cots should be placed end-to-end, to encourage social distancing.
- Facilities should be deep cleaned on a weekly basis.
In addition to all this, it’s very important that you keep your child home if they have any signs of illness. If they show signs of COVID-19, they should get a COVID test ASAP. And, this shouldn’t need to be said, but it does: If your child tests positive, they should NOT attend daycare, but should isolate as per CDC guidelines.
Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.
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