Summer programs navigate COVID-19
Posted on: Sep 9, 2020
At the outset of an unprecedented school year, it is only natural for students, staff members and families to look for some indication of what to expect.
In Delano, the first in-person efforts to navigate the COVID-19 virus through various precautions like social distancing, mask-wearing and enhanced cleaning took place in the summer Community Education programming. The good news is that all programs were held successfully, with no shutdowns required due to illness.
“I think the big takeaway is that our community really did pull together through the summer to make these activities happen,” said Youth Development Coordinator Chris Runke. “That’s what it’s going to take to make the school year successful as well, everybody in the community doing their part: wearing their masks whenever possible, hand washing, all that fun stuff. It just takes everybody to come together to make these things work, especially on such a large scale. Seeing it work through the summer gives me hope that our school year will be successful. There are going to be some struggles, but if everybody pulls together we can definitely make it work.”
What follows is a brief overview of various Community Education programs, efforts made to maintain safety, and the results.
Tiger Kids Club
In the child care setting, Tiger Kids Club Coordinator Becca Seiberlich said the response of the students and parents to new safety restrictions was gratifying.
“The parents who participated in the program took it very seriously,” she said, adding that there were no confirmed COVID cases among participants. “Any symptom the child had, they reported it to the nurse, talked to us about it, and really went over the top to protect their child and the others in their pod.”
The pods were one of several new safety measures enacted and involved keeping students in the same group of nine, with one supervisor, for the entire summer. While that created a different social dynamic than past years, Seiberlich said there were several unforeseen positive results, including students making friendships across grades that have carried on outside of the program.
“At the start we were pretty apprehensive about how that was going to work out because they couldn’t play with different kids and they didn’t have the freedom that they typically have in our program. But what happened is the teachers got to know the kids’ personalities really, really well because they were together every day. So their activities were planned around what the teacher knew their interests to be. So they came every day excited about what they were going to do together.”
Implementation of the statewide mask mandate at the end of July was another challenge, but groups spent as much time outside as possible and made sure to work mask breaks into their routines.
“Kids can do it,” said Seiberlich. “We were amazed about how good they were at following that rule and how they wanted to follow that rule. The kids want to do what’s right. They see others wearing masks in public and they want to do that because they know that that’s what keeps everybody around them safe.”
It was a busy summer for athletics and other activities, as there were about 1,200 registrations for various events. Runke agreed that younger students did very well with the new guidelines, while older students took a little more time to adjust to practices like social distancing. In the end, however, vigilant coaches, honest student responses to health screenings, and compliance with the new rules meant that every activity was able to proceed without interruption.
“People have been very receptive to the rules and guidelines we’ve had in place. It seems like people really want activities to take place and they’re willing to do what it takes, what’s asked of them, to make those things happen,” said Runke.
Early childhood programs
Preschool classes are being split into smaller groups this fall, and the experiences of the summer will help inform actions this fall. Programs like Magic School Bus, Play in the Parks, classes for children age 1 and 2, and early childhood screening went well with no interruptions.
“I think parents are ready to go out and do it. They were respectful of the guidelines that we were giving them. And they appreciated the guidelines that we had them do, the hand sanitizer and the masks,” said Dawn Hilgers, who runs the preschool and other early childhood programs.
Hilgers described the thorough disinfection efforts of surfaces, manipulatives and other items in between screenings, and summed up the whole experience in a nutshell: “It works, it’s just more work,” she said.
All efforts made
Community Ed. Director Diane Johnson said all efforts have been made to ensure safety this summer and fall.
“School administrators across the state and across the country are working very hard with local health experts to design systems that will help keep everybody healthy and safe,” she said. “The public doesn’t see the volume of work that all the administrators have been doing, and all the networking and consultations across the state. So be assured that people are working very, very, hard to create systems that will keep people safe, to the best of our ability. I am optimistic because things did go smoothly this summer.”
Post Categories: Community Education