TULSA, Okla. — Early childhood centers in Oklahoma are joining dozens of school districts and universities implementing safety measures amid the pandemic. The goal is to keep students, teachers and staff safe and minimize exposure to COVID-19.
One of the biggest differences this year for both is that no parents will be allowed inside their buildings.
“We’ve normally welcomed them into the classroom to get comfortable with their really young kids, to sit down and meet the teachers," explains Cindy Decker, the executive director at Tulsa Educare, "Unfortunately, that’s just not the safest way to operate in this new environment.”
At drop off, parents and students will do a daily temperature check and digital health screening before students are allowed inside the building. When parents pick up up their child, they will call the front desk.
School days at Educare will start an hour later at 8:30 a.m. and will end at 3:30 p.m. instead of 5:30. It'll be Monday through Thursday with Friday being a professional development day.
The classroom size has also been reduced for infant and toddlers from eight to six children to three teachers, and preschool rooms will have eight children instead of seventeen.
“We want the kids to interact with the smallest number of people as possible," Decker said.
She says fewer students will be enrolled this year. Normally, the three Educare facilities serve nearly 500 students, but this year, they are expecting about a third of that with fewer classrooms. The fourth and newest center, Educare Four, will open mid-August and will enroll about 50 students.
Teachers have been in training the past few weeks to learn the new protocols, which include proper hand washing, mask wearing, removal of gloves, recognizing trauma and self-care for staff.
"They’ve put a lot of thought into it just to make sure that we are comfortable and that we are going to be safe," said Jessica Brogdon, a teacher at Educare.
While going back into the classroom will look different, she said she's looking forward to seeing familiar faces.
"Getting to see our coworkers and the children that’s definitely what we’re looking forward to," Brogdon said.
Teachers at CAP Tulsa are also gearing up for the school year. It is implementing similar safety measures, such as temperature checks for teachers, parents and students and reduced class sizes.
Safety masks will be required in common areas, but not in the classroom. That is up to the teacher's discretion.
Karen Kiely, the executive director at CAP, said enrollment will be less than other years to allow for smaller class sizes; however, it is offering online resources for any families who won't have their child enrolled.
The school is still formulating a plan for how the calendar year will look like with days and times of instruction. It started a summer program on July 6, but the first day of the new school year for CAP Tulsa will be Aug. 18.
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