Preparing for the new school year is an especially daunting task this year for early education professionals. New Covid-19 procedures coupled with limited staff can prove to be challenging and straining. While many early education centers and preschools are adjusting to the new requirements and procedures, they are also planning for an expected second wave of the coronavirus that could hit this fall. Many childcare providers are also finding innovative ways to serve children during this time as well by expanding their educational offerings to school aged students.
We recently sat down (virtually) with Meghan Marchesani, Regional Director from Magic Memories, a series of early education centers located in Pennsylvania. Back in March, within a matter of days, all of Magic Memories’ locations were shut down by the state. During that time, the staff conducted e-learning and also held many Zoom conferences to keep children engaged and parents informed.
During the shutdown, they sent multiple surveys to parents asking their preferences and also secured a waiver to open and reduce enrollment capacity. In mid-May Magic Memories began reopening their centers with a slow roll-out plan. In this interview, Meghan discussed what the Magic Memories team is doing in terms of procedures, their plans for the fall and new opportunities.
Magic Memories Childcare Center in Chester Springs, PA
What does social distancing look like in classrooms?
We now have put more tables in the classrooms so children have their own designated spots. We use colorful tape and give them a name-tag to make their own space special. We put 2-3 children at a table where we typically would have put 4-5 children. We also eat lunch in the classroom, which is something we’ve never done before. We used to have children eat in our cafeteria. We also have the children line up to go outside—that’s the only time they are somewhat close, but they’re still at a distance! Once they’re outside, they have free reign.
What does drop-off look like at your center?
We sent a survey out to all parents when we were shut down to ask when they would like to drop-off and pick-up their children. We gave each parent a 30-minute drop-off window. We put out a nice table outside with a welcome sign. We have gloves, hand sanitizer and baby wipes on the table. We also have two infrared thermometers that don’t touch the forehead in case one doesn’t work. We then ask the parents if the child has a fever, a cough, didn’t sleep well the night before, or if they noticed anything different. We also ask if anyone in their household is sick. After they answer those questions, we take the child’s temperature.
We also just started using Kangarootime Health Checks feature! We ask parents the questions and it goes right into their medical log in Kangarootime, which is awesome. We have the frequency set to three times a day, so we’re reminded to go in and perform another health check. We have been taking the children’s temperatures throughout the day as well—it’s great because the parents can see it too. We don’t have to waste as much paper using Kangarootime!
Kangarootime’s Health Check Feature
What’s been the most challenging part of reopening?
The health monitoring has been the most challenging. We’re not allowing any parents in the building, so it takes a lot of extra time. We have designated our admin to perform the health checks which takes time away from other activities, like enrollment or virtual tours. When we reopened, we didn’t hire back all of our staff and some decided not to come back, so we don’t have anyone extra. Our assistant directors are our cooks too!
How has parent communication been impacted?
During the shutdown, we had Zoom calls and would send weekly emails to parents. Since we’ve reopened, we message parents through Kangarootime. Most parents choose to use Kangarootime because it’s easier. They can schedule a time through Kangarootime for a phone conference if they need to chat with us.
New parents want to know about pick-up/drop off or want to meet our teachers, so in that case we would set up a Zoom call with the teachers for them. We’re also starting to do virtual meet and greets for parents where each teacher will have a Zoom call with the other parents in the classroom.
Looking forward to the fall, how are you preparing for the second wave?
We’re planning to get waivers as soon as they come out to stay open. I don’t think we’re going to shut down—we’re going to remain open. We already have all of our procedures down and I don’t think they are going to change. We know how to do drop-off and pick-up, and our parents are comfortable with it. However, we are preparing for children not to come if there is a second wave so that’s why we’re building our waitlist so we can open up spots for families if we do have capacity.
In what ways have you created new opportunities for children?
Many of the schools in our counties are fully virtual for at least part of the year so we are offering a school-aged program. Parents send us their child’s school work along with a laptop and headphones, and we help the children with their schoolwork. We have a teacher with a degree in education who helps them. Some of our buildings are limited to 12 kids but if the building is larger, we can have 24 or 26 kids with 2-3 teachers. We have 24 at one of our sites and then another site that we will be starting. We’re excited about the extra income! Parents are happy that they can get work done at home or in their office, and know that their children are learning and getting their schoolwork done. We will be using Kangarootime for the school-aged children to update parents on their schoolwork, what they submitted to teachers and what still needs to be submitted. We will give them socialization with their peers and they have the opportunity to go outside, eat lunch, get a snack so they’re not just sitting at home doing homework. We have insurance for our building too, so it’s very safe just in case.
Special thanks to Meghan for taking the time to sit down with us and offer some insight into their schools’ operations! How is your school managing during this time?
Additional resources to help improve your childcare center and prevent the spread of Coronavirus at your center:
Kangarootime is the leading all-in-one childcare management software for daycares and preschools. With billing and invoicing capabilities, parent communication and staff management tools and classroom automation, Kangarootime helps childcare centers grow and scale. To learn more about optimizing your center with Kangarootime, visit kangarootime.com and schedule a demo.