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Mel Gravely

What to Consider Before Reopening Your Head Start Center

As we come around to the end of the summer, and the time of year again where we begin preparing for children to go back to school, there are many things to consider amid the COVID-19 crisis. Although many of the policies and procedures necessary for caring for children and staff during the pandemic should already be in place, scientists and physicians are learning more each day about this disease. Therefore we must continue to adjust our strategies for educational operations.

Things to consider before and during reopening include procedures for screening students and staff on arrival, understanding who should be wearing masks, physical distancing, what the level of contagion is in your area, what surfaces need cleaned and disinfected, training all employees on health and safety protocols, food and meal preparation, how to reducing clutter and sharing, and specifics for children with special healthcare needs.

The Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center recommends going through every procedural step needing completion before reopening, writing these down and developing good communication tools to help ease anxiety for staff members and parents. Knowing that all of those things have been thought about ahead of time will create more comfort about reopening and returning to class. The ECLKC also recommends forming a reopening committee with staff, parents, and members from your HSAC and mental health consultants.

According to the CDC, while considering reopening you should ask and answer the following questions:

  • Will reopening be consistent with applicable state and local orders?
  • Are you ready to protect children and employees at higher risk for severe illness?
  • Are you able to screen children and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure?
  • Are recommended health and safety actions in place?
  • Is ongoing monitoring in place?
  • If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you should not reopen or make sure to meet all safeguards first and continue to strictly monitor those safeguards after reopening.

When all necessary procedures are in place and you are prepared to open, you’ll want to review the CDC’s three methods for daily screening of staff and children:

Method #1 includes taking temperatures at home, reviewing whether any symptoms are present, and confirming there are no visual signs of illness.

Method #2 is a repeat of Method #1 before entering the classroom, taking temperatures from behind a physical barrier and confirming no signs of symptoms are present. Remember to use a clean pair of gloves for each individual if not using a contactless thermometer.

Method #3 involves the use of all necessary personal protective equipment to conduct screenings. Remember that screening should be conducted every single day at home and before entering the classroom, and everyone should be wearing a mask except for children under the age of 2.

Another list of questions to ask, provided by the CDC are as follows:

  • Are you ready to promote healthy hygiene practices, such as hand-washing and feasible wearing of face-coverings by employees?
  • Will you be able to intensify cleaning, sanitation, disinfection, and ventilation?
  • Are you able to encourage social/physical distancing?
  • Do you have ways to adjust activities and procedures to limit sharing of items such as toys, belongings, supplies, and equipment?
  • Are you prepared to train all employees on health and safety protocols?
  • It is recommended that all of these questions be answered with a “yes” before attempting to reopen for staff and students.

Some additional things to consider are how to support staff and their self-care by providing more frequent breaks, and practicing mindfulness and other relaxation strategies. You’ll also want to have a plan for if children or staff get sick. Encourage anyone who is sick to stay home, and build a staff coverage plan to ensure you have substitutes so that employees have adequate sick time. If you’re looking for further guidance on reopening, you can refer to the resources provided by the ECLKC, the CDC, and should communicate with your local public health department.


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