I’ve been reading and researching and thinking and talking about this stuff non-stop since we closed our doors in mid-March as the Corona virus began sweeping the nation.

Today I’m ready to begin writing about what comes next for WFDC. The finances are in good order, at least for now. The world is gradually returning to work, school, and day care. The CDC and EEC are sharing information gradually about what we need to do to re-open safely. Programs around the world are sharing images of how they’re welcoming children back to programs with new ways of doing things. It’s time we started to get a picture of our own.

Our staff has met twice in the last month to begin to imagine returning to caring for children in our spaces. Here are some things we’ve talked about and I’m imagining:

  1. Lots of time outside! We’ll be thinking about ways to enhance the backyard space and learning what other outdoor spaces will be available to us. We can imagine individual water play in dish pans, sand box play, helping with the garden by watering and picking things, using natural and washable materials for pretend play, taking walks in the neighborhood and along the Brook, exploring open and wooded spaces, running, jumping, smelling, talking, laughing, singing, telling stories as we walk, interacting with trees, flowers, birds, neighbors and fellow travelers from a safe distance.
  2. Toys and materials: Smaller quantities, washable, natural materials. Things we expect to continue using, washing them after use: Duplos, magnatiles, mobilos, plastic animals and figures, playmobil 123, tempera and water color and finger paint. Cardboard boxes. Individual art boxes for each child with markers, crayons, scissors, and tape. Paper! Sticks, rocks, shovels, buckets, play and real dishes. Painting with water. Balls. Books.
  3. Conversation and story telling:) Singing out doors.
  4. Naps and rests- spread out on mats, inside for kids who need to sleep, maybe outdoors for kids who don’t? Washing bedding regularly, thinking about lovies and how to handle those.
  5. Meals and snacks- picnics, backyard meals, served by teachers only, spread out, using more table space for room between us. Kids might have individual water bottles for outings. Finding meals that require less prep and that are easy to serve outdoors and to clean up.
  6. Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting: Maybe we’ll get a dishwasher to help reduce hand washing and use of bleach. Seventh Generation that we already use will work for tables, countertops, doorknobs. Daily bathroom cleaning, more regular mopping and vacuuming, maybe by professional cleaners on a weekly, rather than bi-weekly basis.
  7. Keeping track of belongings. Waiting for guidance, but thinking each child could have a large bag from home that could be left on the back porch at drop off and go back and forth with clothes needed for the day, bedding and clothing that needs washing or is coming back from washing.
  8. Hand washing and toileting. In addition to our usual regular hand washing and sanitary toileting procedures, we’ll be washing after meals, as well as before, upon arrival and before departure (maybe at the outside faucet), and we’ll stock up on hand sanitizer for times we leave the house or for parents before signing in and out. We’ll teach the kids and adults to shut the toilet lid before flushing, to wash hands after toileting, and to deposit the towel in the trash, which will be outside the door, so folks who need the door shut can use the paper towel to manage the door knob without touching it.
  9. Arrival and Departure – We’ll hope to do these in the yard. On days that’s not possible, we’ll use the porches. Parents will drop off in the yard or at the door from the porch. They’ll bring their own pen to sign in and out, or use one that we’ll sanitize afterwards. We’ll check for symptoms of illness with the child and in the family, and we may have parents take children’s temperatures before we accept the child. We’ll ask parents to stagger arrivals and departures and to maintain safe physical distance, and to wear masks if that is expected in the larger world. We’ll help kids and parents and staff do these transitions as warmly and lovingly as possible so we all feel safe and calm.
  10. Managing illness in the group: If a child or family member or caregiver is ill we’ll ask the family or caregiver to follow recommended precautions for staying home. We’ll do our best to have back up caregivers available and reduce the number of children in the group if we don’t have adequate staffing available due to illness. If there is a case of Covid-19 in the group during the day, we’ll keep that child or caregiver in a safe place apart from the group until they can leave and avoid using areas they’ve been in until they are thoroughly cleaned. We’ll report as required to appropriate authorities and follow their guidance about how to proceed.
  11. Masks – Teachers will wear masks inside and outside if social distancing isn’t happening. We’re waiting for guidance on how to proceed with children and mask wearing. It seems permission is required. What will we do if some parents really want all kids to wear masks and some parents do not want their child to wear a mask? For those who wear masks, we’ll need a collection for each child, stored safely until used. We’ll find safe ways of storing them for meals and nap, and during active play, and to send home soiled masks.
  12. Communication – We’ll need families to communicate with us about their child’s well-being and any illness or special circumstances in the family. We’ll find ways to check in without dropping off and picking up inside on days we can’t do those things in the yard. We’ll share how things are going in our observations and photos and e-mails to the group and individual families. We might find we need to also include phone check ins if that is a better way of finding our way together. We’ll share updates from EEC and the CDC as we learn more, and we’ll hope you’ll keep sharing about how things are going for your child and family and at home.

There’s lots more. What do we do about rugs, couches, wooden and cardboard blocks that can’t be washed so easily? What will the daily schedule look like? How will we manage the heat if park water features aren’t available? What will we do if our group size is limited to fewer children than our usual ten? How will we manage contracts? What if we have very few children returning at first? Which staff and children will be ready to return at different points and how will we manage scheduling, budgeting, and use of space over time? What happens when it gets too cold to be outside or inside with windows open? Will we keep windows open rather than use AC on hot days, to increase ventilation? How will we find ways to incorporate soft toys, dress ups, and sensory materials that children love if they aren’t as easy to sanitize? Which meals will be simplest to prepare and to serve outside? Which of those will children love? What if we don’t install a dishwasher? How will our afternoons go, with everyone needing private time and quiet, if only some kids are resting on a mat? What will we do with all the materials we’ll remove because they don’t work well in this new world? How will we store and wash and sanitize what we choose to and are allowed to keep? What new materials or outings might we add to our repertoire that will make this time work well?

All of these questions are answerable. I just don’t know the answers yet. Just like I don’t know when we’ll be allowed or ready to open, or what the new regulations and protocols will be.

We do know we’ll find a way to care for children lovingly, to incorporate play and projects, that we’ll focus on relationships as we always have, and spend our fair share of time outdoors. We’ll rest and talk and sing and laugh, and be happy to be together again. Of that, I feel quite sure.