Since mid-March the preschool has been closed to reduce the spread of COVID, and we’ve been awaiting guidance that would inform our plans for next school year.
We’ve shared the hope and desire with our families that life would soon return to normal – and that we could soon welcome children to our cozy classrooms – in person, up close and personal, enjoying our days laughing, learning, and growing together with teachers and friends – the NorthCreek Preschool way for nearly 50 years, and the way we believe children learn best.
As we’ve all experienced these past months, the efforts to keep our communities healthy and safe impact every part of life in continuously evolving ways. Child care has, of course, also been greatly affected. Particularly in the past weeks, we’ve been seeking the Lord’s direction and wisdom regarding next school year, asking Him to direct the steps for our beloved preschool – His preschool! We have also been carefully studying the mandates, guidelines, and best practices provided by the CDC, our state and county health departments, community care licensing, and a number of professional educational organizations. We’ve been working hard to understand what’s required as well as recommended, and then considering the impact of these challenges and changes to our program.
It has become very clear that the impact of implementing the needed changes in our preschool world WOULD, in a very significant way, affect our program in every aspect of every day, from arrival to dismissal and all the hours in between.
As we’ve considered the new world that would be NorthCreek Preschool for next school year, we’ve wanted to be particularly mindful of –
- the impact to our program – to our philosophy, goals, and mission, and the methods and ways in which we carry out these foundational beliefs
- the impact on children and their families
- the impact on our staff
- our ability to sustain the program throughout the school year.
With regret, we’ve reached a conclusion – for our younger children in the 3s and Pre-K programs, the changes would significantly and detrimentally alter the programs we love and believe in, the programs parents desire and the environment we believe to be best for little ones. So with great heartache, we have determined that we will not be able to offer the 3s and Pre-K programs next school year.
We trust it will be helpful to know some context for this decision as we considered the points above. The impact is significant, particularly for little ones just learning about the world around them. The emphasis on solo activities, restricted sharing, heightened precautionary measures of many kinds, and particularly physical distancing would, by necessity, permeate each day. Our class sizes would be severely impacted, and we would be limited in the kinds of activities we would be able to safely offer. There would be limited manipulatives, limited play space, limited interactions with parents, limited physical contact or proximity with children – all delivered by teachers in face coverings. These super challenging dynamics would be difficult for little ones to understand and follow. In reviewing the child care guidance for teachers’ interactions with the children, one repeated phrase jumped out at us: “frequent verbal reminders.” The direction was intended to help children practice physical distance guidelines, but the overall message was clear – the level to which the focus would need to be placed on safely navigating each part of our day would be a prominent and ever-present message of every day. The regrettable result would be so much less of what we believe helps children thrive, and so much more of an emphasis on constant vigilance and reminders and protocols to limit the spread of illness. Truly, these safety measures would be necessary to protect the children and your families as well as our staff and their families, but, oh, such a difficult environment for our younger ones, and not the environment we have provided over the years – one in which children thrive, not just survive.
We have an amazing staff and we don’t give up easily! We’ve navigated many a challenging day and season – life with preschoolers, as we all know, is full of challenges as well as joys. But it’s the reality of this time that it’s just not possible to implement every needed safety measure and still provide the same level of teaching, loving, nurturing, knowing, and growing each little one – the experience we desire to provide and that parents desire for their children.
Adding to these challenges, our ability to sustain in-person learning would be in question. The daily monitoring of each child and staff member for both their illnesses as well as their exposure to others who were ill would include a broad range of common symptoms. A child or staff member’s symptoms would mean exclusion from school, sometimes for days, with more significant illnesses potentially requiring closure of a classroom or the preschool for a period of time.
Amidst this hard news, there is a bright spot for those whose children are enrolled in JK next year. While the preschool will not be offering our Junior Kindergarten (JK) program, NorthCreek Academy is planning to open Transitional Kindergarten (TK), a program very similar to our current JK, operating as part of the Academy rather than part of the child care world. The Academy is currently “all in” planning for next school year. Though Academy students will also be getting accustomed to new safety protocols, it’s our belief that children who are on the older side and eligible for JK/TK (some of whom are actually eligible for kindergarten), will be better able than the younger ones to adjust to the new safety measures. TKers will also be more developmentally ready to transition to the Academy’s super successful virtual schooling, should it be necessary again this coming year. More information about our TK program will be available as soon as possible.
Lord willing, we anticipate re-opening the preschool as soon as we’re able after next school year, and it’s our prayer that we will have an opportunity to partner with families in the future.