As our country has slowly started to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools and child care centers have been weighing their options when it comes to welcoming students back. Our early childhood center, Educare Chicago, after much careful consideration, made the decision to reopen and eagerly prepared to welcome children, families and educators back earlier this month.
Educare Chicago has been a lifeline to many parents throughout this time. The school serves families from under-resourced communities by providing high-quality child care and resources to their families.
“I am thankful for everyone and all the work that you have done, knowing how hard it can be for everyone who works there, since you all have families, children and other various things going on in your personal lives,” Dion, an Educare Chicago parent, said.
Educare staff support parents as the primary nurturers and educators of their children. That support didn’t stop when the school closed back in March. Educare Chicago teachers and staff have been with parents every step of the way, providing helpful learning resources, spare masks and messages of encouragement.
“I appreciate you all so much for all you do,” another parent said of the support she’s received from the school. We know that these early years of a child’s education are critical to their future success in school. The current health crisis has shown just how important it is for working families to have access to high-quality early learning for their children. Without early childhood centers and schools being open, the families we serve are forced to stay home due to lack of child care and are unable to go to work, making it almost impossible to make ends meet. No parent should have to choose between providing care for their children or losing needed income.
What does back to school look like during COVID-19?
Both Illinois Governor Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lightfoot determined that child care programs could reopen if specific requirements were met prior to accepting students back into the building. The safety of the children, families and educators at Educare Chicago has been paramount to the school’s leadership team and has informed their decision making every step of the way. The school established a Reopening Committee to help plan for the many requirements mandated by the City of Chicago and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to reopen their school. Prior to its reopening, the school also submitted a written plan to DCFS.
In accordance with state and city requirements, Educare Chicago resumed center-based school operations on Monday, August 3, and is allowed to serve a limited number of children. Educare Chicago is committed to safely providing comprehensive services for children and families. The school has had to adapt some practices due to the new rules and regulations. Several of the changes that have been put in place to ensure children, families and staff are safe include:
- Screening children and staff daily prior to entry into the school
- Limiting access to children throughout the day
- Increased cleaning and sanitation practices
- Social distancing and wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and children over age 2
- Increased square footage of 50 square feet per child
- Excluding children and staff when there is a cough, temperature, diarrhea, rash or any COVID-19 symptoms
- 6 feet of space between cribs and sleeping cots
- Installation of protective barriers
- Updating policies and procedures
What is Educare Chicago?
Educare Chicago was founded in 2000 as an innovative early childhood education program providing comprehensive services to children and families in under-resourced neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side. Educare has spawned a national network of 25 schools and has reimagined what it means to educate our earliest learners.
Educare Chicago was founded by the Ounce after years of working with children and families in the Grand Boulevard community. The Ounce’s work prior to the opening of Educare Chicago provided critical insight into the Educare Model. Based on four core principles: intensive family engagement, continual professional development, high-quality teaching practices and data utilization, the Educare model has been shown to prepare children for kindergarten in multiple developmental categories.