Stay-at-home orders have been lifted in over 25 states, and that means that more child care programs are set to reopen soon. Many child care facilities are implementing policy changes to combat COVID-19 coronavirus. We’re now seeing limitations on building access, new pick up and drop off policies, and enhanced security throughout the building. We have always advocated for program safety and security long before this pandemic hit, and we’re hoping that child care programs will make these new safety features permanent.
Face Masks For Child Care Providers and Staff
Ask yourself, “Will staff members be wearing masks?” and “How will this affect the children?” Wearing a mask may make you unrecognizable. Many programs have already begun sending videos or photos of staff wearing masks to their students to familiarize them with their provider’s new appearance. If there are hearing-impaired children in your classroom, your communication with them could be hampered as they cannot see your lips or your facial expressions. The Center for Hearing and Communication says to “Prepopulate digital flashcard apps (or paper index cards) with information and phrases that can help minimize unexpected questions or comments.” Many early childhood educators, as well as those in the hard-of-hearing community, are also exploring face shields and/or clear face masks.
Should Parents Wear Masks When They Arrive at Your Building?
Yes, parents and caregivers should be wearing masks. But will you recognize them? Many programs rely on visual identification to buzz the door open and allow entry. Do you know who you are letting in - especially when the person is wearing a mask? We are all familiar with the many criminal acts that have occurred when an individual is wearing a mask. In light of these challenges, many programs are opting for meeting parents outside. This also limits the number of individuals in your space - which can limit the potential for the virus to spread. Consider having parents call or text when they arrive and then assign a runner to greet and pick up the children.
Limiting Access to the Building
Out of fear of spreading the coronavirus, child care programs are now limiting access to their buildings. Many programs have instituted new protocols for package and mail drops offs, parents coming into the building, and locked doors. Programs are also restricting tours to virtual sessions only. These types of policies should be enforced whether there is a pandemic or not; we never want to allow a stranger to enter the facility.
Pick Up and Drop Off Protocols
Many states are recommending curbside drop off and pick up for children. This means that only staff will be traveling through the building and going to different classrooms. While this adds extra tasks for staff members, it is a major plus for building safety and security. This is a procedure child care providers should continue to follow even after COVID-19. The more we limit visitors from entering our buildings, the safer we will all be from disease spread and potential violent attacks.
Schools have been closed most of March and all of April. Historically, both months have had numerous shooting incidents. March has had an active shooter event yearly since 2002. April has infamous dates such as Hitler's birthday and the anniversary of the tragic Columbine High School shooting (1999). Both events have been found to inspire mass shooters who wish to follow in the path of these twisted individuals. However, since COVID-19, March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002. CBS News says, “For most of those students, this is one of the longest stretches in their lifetimes without a school shooting. There hasn't been a March without a school shooting since 2002 — the year most current high school seniors were born.”
School shootings may have decreased, but gun sales have soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some fear a major increase in shootings once school returns. Now is not the time to let our guard down. Warm temperatures can stir action among depressed and socially isolated individuals. While we focus on fighting the virus, we must remain aware of other safety challenges and not forget them.
Child Care Programs Should Reevaluate Safety Plans
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed our way of living and our safety protocols. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to make us aware of the need for increased safety. The pandemic has shown that we can enhance our safety, and parents and others will comply. Some of the new protocols should be kept in place as we return to the new normal. If we do this to prevent a virus, why wouldn’t we do this to prevent a bad guy from entering our building?
At the Institute for Childhood Preparedness, safety and security are our #1 priorities for your staff, families, and the children in your care. Our Executive Director, Andrew Roszak, has over 20 years of emergency preparedness experience, with the last 10 devoted to pandemic preparedness. While you’re home, consider purchasing Andrew’s newest book, “Preschool Preparedness for an Active Shooter,” available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Gryphon House Publishing.
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