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Mel Gravely

The Gravely Group 2021 Year in Review

We’ll be honest. If you had asked us during our last Year in Review blog if we’d still be talking about COVID-19 affecting our day to day lives, we’d have said, “I sure hope not!” In December 2020 when we were writing it, the vaccines had just become available for those at highest risk and would start being available to everyone shortly after. Surely by the following December, we thought, America would be rid of this nasty disease, and we’d finally be something resembling “back to normal.” We’d only be talking about the virus in the past tense, how it had reshaped our lives, and how things are different now that it’s over.

In fact, we had already started to do that. In early 2021, I started posting blogs about the what the world might look like for Head Start post-COVID. In March, vaccination efforts were in full swing, and we had fully expected that by the beginning of the school year in fall, enough Americans would be vaccinated that both kids and teachers alike could be without masks and without social distancing.

“Overall, we’re optimistic that things will return to normal eventually, but the big question is ‘How long will that take?’,” we pondered back in March in our blog Is Your ERSEA Strategy Ready for Post-COVID? “Recent data is encouraging. New guidance from the federal government has asked states to prioritize teachers and child care workers for vaccines. And the Biden administration has said they’ll have enough vaccine supply to immunize every American by May.”

By early June, millions of Americans had received at least one shot of a vaccine. It seemed like we finally were making progress on ending the pandemic. Local news anchors mused about “hot vax summer,” and The Gravely Group wrote about how Head Start agencies might go about hiring consultants post-COVID for the upcoming school year.

“[A]s we emerge from this COVID-19 pandemic, agencies may need to evaluate how and for what reasons they hire outside consultants,” we wrote.

Well, as summer marched on, so did the pandemic. The Delta variant arrived, tens of thousands more Americans died, public health officials became political punching bags, and anti-vaccine misinformation permeated throughout social media.

As always, The Gravely Group did our best to keep you informed through our blog. Facebook, LinkedIn group (now nearly 14,000 members!), monthly e-newsletter, and of course, our 100% online trainings.

For example, we reported when the Office of Head Start made it clear that Head Start families couldn’t withstand another year without in-person services. Many experts worried about the long-term effects of prolonged school closings on development and school readiness for young children, with effects particularly harsh for vulnerable communities.

“It is infants, toddlers, and early learners that are falling behind the most from not receiving adequate education during their most important developmental stages of life,” we explained in a blog.

So in late May, OHS announced that it expected agencies to get back to full enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year. Luckily, they weren’t expecting full enrollment without support. The American Rescue Plan provided the funds, and OHS provided the knowledge.

But money and knowledge weren’t the only barriers programs faced. We were still dealing with vaccine hesitancy among staff and volunteers, as well as a labor shortage, particularly in the care-based industry.

“The child care industry employment rate is down more than 10 percent from pre-pandemic levels and child care staff hiring has become more challenging than ever,” we wrote about the labor shortage.

So here we are in December 2021. I won’t even begin to make predictions about 2022, because I’ll probably be wrong. But one thing is for sure, The Gravely Group will continue to be your trusted source for information about Head Start. Join the conversation on social media or sign up to receive our newsletter for all the latest updates.

Other Blogs from 2021

COVID wasn’t the only thing we talked about in 2021. Here are just a few of our other articles from this year.

In late summer, we explored the document Supporting School Readiness and Success of Young African American Boys Project, first published in 2015, in a series of four blogs:

  1. An Introduction to the African American Boys Project
  2. The Culturally Responsive Lens
  3. Understanding Young African American Boys
  4. Implementing Culturally Responsive, Strength-Based Practices

Of course, we couldn’t let the year go by without talking about family engagement, one of the core tenets of the Head Start philosophy. As a father, grandfather, great grandfather, and foster father, family engagement has been a passion of mine since I started The Gravely Group 15 years ago. Here’s some of the articles we wrote in 2021:

  1. Setting the Standard for Parent Engagement
  2. 10 Facts about Father Engagement
  3. Supporting Family Engagement through Music
  4. How can programs promote positive, goal-oriented relationships with fathers?

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