One morning I’m giggling with children about Lucky the Leprechaun, and the next morning I’m standing in our empty building with tears in my eyes, trying to figure out what we could possibly do to bring life back to our school. I stood there with my five year old son, Campbell, as he feverishly scanned his 2nd home; with both confusion and sadness in his eyes, he asked, “Mommy, where are my friends?”....“They’re at home with their families for a little while, but they’ll be back soon”. But how were we supposed to make that happen?
Finally, we put fear in the back seat and shifted our focus to what we could manage rather than what we could not. We made activity packets, hundreds and hundreds of different age appropriate packets. We did bus visits to our families’ houses and blew kisses through the windows. We did virtual storytimes and youtube videos (my dogs became famous!). And finally, on April 6th, after developing new policies to reflect best practice, we were able to open for our families that were considered essential personnel. Despite the faint glow of green and gold in our hallways, left over from St. Patrick’s Day, it was clear that we were moving forward.
Four teachers and fifteen children, instead of our usual 60 teachers and 325 children, joyfully bounced around our campus during those months, relishing in the reprieve from reality. Thankfully we were able to pay all of our teachers throughout these months and many of them came in from time to time to check on their classroom or make things for their children.
Meanwhile, our leadership team diligently worked to develop a plan to reopen for summer camp. At the time, we were restricted to a maximum group size of 10 people, including the caregiver, which made it extremely difficult to provide an engaging, socially-distanced summer program that could accommodate all of our children. Although we knew the summer would present many challenges, every Thursday at 2PM, our administrative team anxiously sat on the edge of our seats, waiting to hear Governor Northam’s press conference hoping for policy changes that would help our program. Finally, on June 2nd, Governor Northam announced that group size for younger children was expanding from ten to twelve, including the caregiver. It was just enough so that we could have a “genuine” CDCW summer camp program. In addition, older children were now permitted to meet in somewhat larger groups, and Summer Camp 2020 became a reality. The same press conference included additional positive news for CDCW as we learned that our pool could open for the summer (with restrictions). What would a summer camp be without a pool?! We literally shouted with excitement and jumped up and down!
During the summer we learned that Henrico County Public Schools were planning for a fully virtual opening for the school year. That decision meant it was time for us to “reinvent” CDCW’s school age childcare program. We put our heads together, sent surveys to our families and began creating and redesigning our program to meet these changing needs. Within a matter of days we planned, organized, staffed and enrolled children into our “new normal” program. Two private kindergarten classrooms plus virtual learning groups for 1st- 6th graders rapidly filled.
As we enter this new world of childcare, we know there will be new challenges each day. Our CDCW family is ready to meet these challenges head on as we strive to provide the very best care for everyone. We are all looking forward to the future and a world where everyone remains safe and healthy.