Planning Ahead for a Successful Reopening of Your Center

Julia Erman
June 9, 2020

After a lengthy lockdown, we’re finally starting to see the economy slowly reopen, like a snowdrop peeking out of the frosty ground after a long winter. But it’s not just a new season that we’re faced with, COVID-19 has forever changed the way we will run our child care centers. In case you missed it over the last couple weeks we’ve taken a look at  how to COVID-proof your center and  3 ways online tools help you come back stronger. Today we’ll discuss how to plan ahead for a successful reopening. 

Whether your center operates year-round or is based on the school year, taking a moment to plan ahead for the next calendar year now will relieve stress, reduce anxiety and set your centre apart as a safe haven in a storm. While there are many uncertainties about the next 12 months, what we do know is that by creating a comprehensive yet flexible plan that can accommodate a variety of people and requests we can set ourselves up to conquer the COVID beast. 

When planning ahead as a prior director, my first priority was to plan for large events. If your center is anything like mine, social events are the norm for back to school, holidays, and birthday or other celebrations. This year, due to social distancing protocol and group limits, we need to think of these in a different way. 

This means we not only need to be aware of local and federal protocols, but we need to plan to enforce social distancing practices and group limits. We all want this to be as efficient, effective, and affordable as possible without infringing on either the comfort or safety of our clients. So what does that look like?  Below are some ideas for social or ‘physical’ distancing and group limits: 

What is ‘Social Distancing’?

It seems like this new phenomenon is here to stay, at least for the time being. Whether director, staff or parents, it never hurts to go over the basics: 

 According to the Red Cross social distancing includes: 

  • Keeping at least 6 feet away from others 
  • Avoiding gathering in groups
  • Staying out of crowded places

Although many things are beginning to reopen, my guess is there will continue to be requirements or recommendations on social distancing (more accurately termed ‘physical distancing) for at least the next year. With this in mind, consider implementing the following for your centre: 

‘Physical’ Distancing Considerations:

  • Remain seated during meal times 
  • Maintain proper spacing during nap time 
  • Revamp circle time 
  • Limit class sizes- which we will talk more about below

All of these changes don’t mean that we can’t have a fun, thriving classroom, it just means that we’ll need to be a little creative to make the new changes a fun experience rather than an onerous requirement. 

For example: 

  • use ’two dogs’ or ‘wingspan’ to teach spacing during nap time
  • draw or create fun individual circles for circle time together 
  • learn songs to teach handwashing 

Of course, the best way to physical distance is to stay away from crowded places. If that isn’t possible, however, then reducing group size can lower risk. 

Group Limits:

In most areas right now there are still group size limitations and they may stick around for a while. Planning for them in advance will be key! 

Here are a few ways to limit group sizes:

Offer Time Slots: As you begin to plan your events for the school year consider offering different time slots to spread out attendance. This is a great way to still have an in person event, but limit the amount of people at one time. Google Forms can be used for free or try one of these 7 free appointment scheduling options

Online Options: Another way you can do this is by having an online option for each event that you host. Now that people are more used to using video conferencing software like Zoom, Face-Time and Google Hangout I bet you’ll get some interest. This is a great no-pressure option for families who want to steer clear of public events and will help keep your public events slightly smaller. We discussed this in a recent post. 

Smaller Class Sizes: Not only do we need to consider our larger events, but our classrooms as well. You may want to consider having more classes with fewer children for the upcoming year. Instead of having 20 children and 2 teachers per class, try 8 children and 1 teacher per class. I know personally it is hard to be in a classroom as a solo teacher, but this might be the best route at least for the short-term and can be re-evaluated as needed. 

As you balance social distancing needs and budget requirements, you will need to decide what works best for you. The good news is that when the limitations start to lift you can always add more children to your classroom. That is way easier than decreasing class size mid-year, or having questions surrounding the safety and compliance of your center. 

Final Notes:

The truth is that we truly are navigating uncharted waters. There’s no doubt that on-the-fly changes will need to be made and policies reviewed and updated. But if we combine our current knowledge with our natural creativity and ingenuity, we can prepare for even the worst-case scenario, which we know rarely comes! 

Whether you are a director, supervisor or child care center owner I am here to remind you that you are doing a great job! I can only imagine what it’s like to be in your shoes right now, but the good news is that you get to set the stage for your center. Planning ahead today will set your center apart from others, creating a safe and informed community that will come out of this pandemic stronger than ever before! 

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