How An Early Childcare Facility Managed

Article | 08.19.2020

By Casey Bourdo, Senior Interior Designer, Wightman

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Last year, Wightman had the pleasure of completing interior renovations for the Early Childhood Center (ECC) at Trinity Lutheran in St. Joseph, MI. It was a fulfilling process working through the design intent and goals with members of Trinity Lutheran to fully understand their wants and needs, collaborating closely to design and select interior finishes that would provide durability as well as a sense of independence to the renovated interior spaces. The final design included renovations to two preschool classrooms as well as the infant space, providing all new interior finishes and cabinetry that was supportive of child heights as well as fully renovated restrooms for the classrooms.

When COVID-19 hit this past Spring, many of our concerns here at Wightman were with our clients, past and present, and making sure we were available to help with any of their needs as they worked through how this pandemic would impact their operations. During the process of renovating the Early Childhood Center, we were fortunate enough to meet and develop great relationships with many members of the ECC, the school, the council and the church. One individual we built a relationship with was the ECC Director, Robyn Adams. Robyn played an important role during the renovation process to work as the liaison between the proposed renovation and licensing guidelines as well as collaborating closely with our Interiors team to select interior finishes for the renovated spaces. She was a great resource for our team and we were glad that she was willing to share their COVID-19 experience with us, including topics such as how the Governor’s shut down order impacted them directly, additional challenges they faced and some of the ideas that they are implementing as they look towards the future.

Trinity Lutheran, like many other childcare facilities and schools, shut down in-person classroom instruction at the end of March, with the childcare facility officially closing two weeks following that. At the time of the childcare closure, Robyn noted that they only were caring for 12 children because many of their families were already working from home due to the COVID-19 closures. She praised that “families were very understanding and accommodating” during the time of uncertainty and that “staff were understanding as well.” They implemented virtual instruction and "preschool teachers sent packets and activities home with the kids. They also met weekly on Zoom calls, read stories and did science experiments or other activities by sending videos to their classes each week.” Robyn noted that it was and still is a learning process as the guidelines continue to change which means continually updating their procedures to keep moving forward safely.

Regarding some of the challenges, Robyn shared, “The biggest challenge is keeping up with the orders and the recommendations released by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and LARA (Licensing and Regulatory Affairs).” Trinity Lutheran continues to adjust their procedures to accommodate these changes the best they can but implementing social distancing procedures with younger children is a challenge. To try and maintain some type of social distancing, the facility “spreads children out at lunch, snack and nap time and limits group sizes when possible.” The facility already had rigorous cleaning procedures because of licensing but to accommodate CDC recommendations, they have added additional cleaning procedures throughout the school day.

Robyn also shared some of the tasks or procedures that they are implementing. Some of the items she noted were:

  • Limiting the number of people in the ECC each day. They do this by asking parents to drop off children at the main door and then having staff escort them to their classrooms. They use this system both before and after school.
  • Implementing temperature checks and health screening questions daily.
  • They have begun eating lunch, snacks, etc. in their classrooms to keep shared space to a minimum.
  • Staggering classroom designated times for use of the gymnasium and playground space so that only one classroom occupies that space at a time and allows for the space to be cleaned and disinfected between uses.
  • Classroom sizes have been limited to a number of children well below licensing allows to support social distancing.
  • When social distancing cannot be maintained ECC staff wears face masks.
  • The ECC has designated a “sick room” for children or staff who may be feeling ill.

Special thanks to Robyn Adams and the entire team at Trinity Lutheran for sharing her experience and allowing us to be involved in the ECC renovations. It is fulfilling to hear that some of the renovations that we helped to implement have supported the ECC as they manage through these tough times. The quick actions of schools and childcare facilities to implement innovative ideas in such a short notice of time is an amazing thing to consider. Although the pandemic caused a foreseen amount of challenges, it also brought to forefront opportunities – opportunities for support, community, and growth.