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Helping first-time schoolers



Big changes for clingy kids already scared of school

Helping first-time schoolers

Questions regarding the ways in which not only regular school but daycares and pre-schools will be working this autumn are preying on parents, especially if their kids are entering school for the first time. Will the idea of masks and temperature taking, and no parents allowed in a building, work to turn a new generation off education entirely?

Marco della Cava has examined the issue of getting young kids in the door for the start of their education in a new USA Today piece that finds that, “the calculus is different for children ages 2 to 4, an impressionable phase that leaves parents concerned about the possible impact of exposing children to a mask- and temperature check-filled setting from which parents now are excluded for health reasons.”

Gone are the days when clingy children could be escorted by mom or dad into a classroom for that momentous debut school experience, della Cava writes, noting that, “While protocols vary, many pre-K and day care facilities now have measures to keep teachers and children safe that include car drop-offs, fever checks and the wearing of masks or shields.”

The best way to face all this uncertainty, he’s found, may be virtual tours, app-based fever and illness monitoring and updates, and in some cases in-class visits via apps or webcams.

In particular, della Cava speaks with Jessica Chang of WeeCare, which helps connect parents with 2,500 child care facilities around the country. In addition to sharing medical states, the WeeCare facilities use air purifiers, encourage outdoor play when possible, and parent “visits” with kids through the secure WeeCare app. And as with most day care providers who are accredited to take infants, new measures for babies focus on thoroughly sterilizing cribs and other crawling access areas as well as making sure parents wash all crib linens and clothes nightly.

“We do see apprehension from parents who haven’t returned their kids to school yet,” says Chang, herself a mother of two young children. “Some of course have no choice due to employment issues, and have to send them back. For the others, we offer virtual ways to interact with providers to raise their comfort level. And we encourage providers to make things fun when they can.”

For example, Chang says, to make a car drop-off less frightening for a toddler, some of the care providers in the network have taken to building a small maze with stations. One is for a visual inspection, another for a fever check, and at each station the child receives a stamp in a booklet, turning the chore into game.

As with many decisions related to our coronavirus moment, experts say parents caught in this dilemma need to assess their own comfort with risk, and balance that with everything from their child’s development needs to their own employment demands.

“Just like weighing the risks and benefits of K-12, parents need to figure out if pre-K is a good idea for them and their family,” says Susan Hedges, director of quality assessment at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which accredits facilities around the world. “In normal times, we’ve all sent a young child with a slight fever to school simply because we have our own day to get started. But now there can’t be any of that; this is deadly serious. Everyone has a role to play.”




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