After perhaps the roughest spring in our nation’s recent history and an uncertain summer, no doubt we all hope to get back to our normal routines in the fall and get the kids back to school safely. But public health challenges require diligence alongside desire, especially with regard to our kids. We asked The Village Learning Center’s (TVLC’s) longtime director Nelda Jackson-Moses, an early learning expert, to share her thoughts on childcare and schooling options as COVID-19 continues to be a major concern.
New Jersey Family: How should parents weigh the pros and cons of returning their kids to daycare or school settings?
Nelda Jackson-Moses: We are huge fans of encouraging children to discover, explore, and navigate their way toward a lifetime of learning. In fact, key benefits of preschool/K-aged group care—especially during challenging times—are very clear. But first and foremost, health and safety must be our number one priorities. As such, TVLC has sought expert counsel and incorporated salient guidelines to balance the benefits of learning against the threat of COVID-19…and parents will need to consider their specific institution’s safety protocol in light of today’s concerns.
NJF: How has COVID impacted TVLC?
NJM: We all have been hit hard in various ways due to this pandemic but, as a childcare center director, I think we’re especially concerned about keeping our kids’ routines as stress-free as possible while paying special attention to safety and cleanliness. By utilizing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local safety and cleanliness experts, we believe TVLC is in a unique position to provide a remarkably safe environment for kids to keep learning.
NJF: How has TVLC tackled the most pressing issues around COVID-19 in a school setting?
NJM: In recent months, TVLC has shifted its guidelines toward providing smaller class sizes and ratios, minimizing concerns about public gathering spaces (such as cafeterias/hallways found in larger public schools), offering flexible scheduling (including part-time options) for families easing back into routines, and waiving registration fees to lessen financial impact. A lot of families are struggling to maintain their balance during this strange time, so we want to offer the greatest flexibility while keeping the utmost focus on center cleanliness and child-, parent- and staff safety.
NJF: What do you think are the wisest things parents should consider in returning their kids to daycare, preschool, and pre-K?
NJM: I suggest really comparing your options thoroughly as everyone now is implementing a new way to do school. Evaluate both public and private possibilities before committing to a fall schedule. Do your research and ask a lot of questions. Learn about institutions’ safety and cleaning protocols and compare them stringently. At TVLC, we’ve coined a new twist on the old ABCs: Access, Baselines, and Cleaning. How do people access the school or daycare center? How many? What are the bottom-line safety standards? How often, and how deeply, are staff cleaning every day? Be diligent but not fearful.
NJF: Do you have some suggested questions for parents to ask their schools and daycares?
NJM: Here’s a chart we created with the topics we believe are the most important for parents and caregivers to consider. The “Key Consideration” column includes parameters that TVLC has incorporated (per CDC and other expert guidelines) so it’s a great yardstick as you’re making your decisions.
NJF: How do you think parents can best prepare their kids to return to school and daycare?
NJM: The Mayo Clinic published a great article about this very topic. Helping educate and guide children toward gaining knowledge, keeping safe distances, and washing their hands well and often goes really far in minimizing the threat of COVID-19 as well as more common viruses and bacterial infections. But overall, my greatest suggestion is to balance truth and calm: Yes, there’s this bug that can make people ill, but there’s also much we can do to avoid it…and the benefits of early childhood learning are very much worth the extra safety requirements we need to implement in this COVID-19 era.
How can we help you navigate your schooling needs? Contact TVLC about new weekly rates and waived registration fees; we offer infant, toddler, preschool/pre-K, drop-in and summer camp options.
Nelda Jackson-Moses, Director
The Village Learning Center
15 Yard Road, Pennington