The University of Nebraska–Lincoln Children’s Center will reopen June 15, with many precautions in place to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Director Callie Wilhite said the child care center will look and feel different, but the changes will help keep the children, their families and the center’s staff safe.
The center closed March 23, and since early May, Wilhite and the center’s leadership have been preparing for reopening. They’ve written a new COVID-19 handbook for child care families and for staff. It includes daily procedures and mitigation plans for any confirmed COVID-19 case within the center.
“We had guidance and help from lot of departments in the community and on campus,” Wilhite said. “They have been extremely helpful in the process of reviewing our response manual and opening guide.”
Most noticeable will be the new drop-off procedures, which include a daily questionnaire screening and temperature checks for staff and children, along with a contactless drop-off, where parents can bring their child to the entrance of the classroom without going inside.
“We wanted to keep our family focus but also limit the number of people in the actual classroom space,” Wilhite said. “All the doors will be open, and parents won’t have to have any contact points with doorways or thresholds.”
Staff and parents will be required to wear a mask, and children who can are encouraged to do so, too.
In the run-up to reopening, staff have also been doing inventory of classroom toys and materials, looking carefully at cleaning and sanitization needs.
“Staff are working to remove any items from their classrooms that would be harder to clean and sanitize on a daily basis,” Wilhite said. “Things like the soft toys and materials that don’t necessarily clean well are being removed. They’re also in the process of updating cleaning checklists and sanitation checklists for the day to include more frequency.”
Playground use will also be limited to one classroom at a time, with staff wiping down high-touch areas between each use. Inside the classrooms, visual aids will encourage children to stay 6 feet apart as much as possible.
The center will reopen with about 50% of children in attendance, as some families are choosing to continue to keep their children home. Under the directed health measure, only 15 children will be allowed in each classroom, in contrast with a normal classroom capacity of 20 to 24, meaning that all classrooms will still be used.
For those families not coming back right away, Wilhite said Zoom programming, which was offered throughout the shutdown, will continue.
“Our primary goal through the lockdown was to maintain that social connection with the kids themselves, and also between the teachers and parents,” Wilhite said. “We want to continue that with kids who aren’t here to keep them engaged. They’ll be able to join us for story times, songs and lessons, just like they did before.”
Wilhite said regardless of how many children are attending, plans are in place to continue following directed health measures and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our goal is to be at full capacity — whether we’re in our space or we’ve expanded to different spaces that we’re sourcing now — going into the fall semester,” Wilhite said. “We are right next door to the Whittier building, and we’ve got some spaces sited in that area (so) that if we need to, we can expand into those spaces.”