For seven weeks our schools were mostly empty. At times, the directors might be in the office catching up on administrative work or in the classrooms cleaning every possible surface but for the most part, the hallways and classrooms that for years were filled with children’s laughter and singing and curious voices sat eerily quiet. Chris Oldenburg, our Area Director, described the empty schools as “ghost towns.” He said that it felt like at any moment a gaggle of kids should be returning from the playground or waking from a nap or getting ready for centers. Instead, it was just endlessly quiet.
It made sense then that everyone was over the moon excited when we reopened our doors on May 4th. It had been seven weeks of quiet hallways, seven weeks of sheltering in place, seven long weeks of kids stuck at home without seeing their teachers or playing with friends.
Mixed in with the excitement, though, was some nervousness as well. In order to do everything we can to ensure the safety of families and staff, we crafted enhanced operating procedures and sanitizing guidelines. All teachers are wearing masks when taking care of children, no one is allowed in the building without a temperature check and we are disinfecting all surfaces and washing hands at least once an hour.
We were concerned that returning to school after seven weeks of “vacation” and getting back on a schedule would be difficult for the children. We also worried about how they would react to their teachers wearing masks all day. Would it scare them? Upset them? Confuse them? We also wondered how parents would react to the new system of temperature checks and not being allowed inside.
After day one, however, we knew we had nothing to worry about. Kids are so resilient! They got back in the swing of their classroom schedules quickly and many of them voiced how much they missed their teachers and friends. Some of them were slightly put off by teachers wearing masks but within a couple hours it was the new normal.
Parents and teachers have all been supportive and cooperative with the new safety procedures. Temperature checks at the door have gone smoothly, our disinfecting protocols have been followed and the kids are happy to be back in a routine. All in all, our reopening couldn’t have gone better. We have our incredible staff and supportive parents to thank for such a smooth transition!
This pandemic has been challenging and the challenge isn’t over yet. It’s safe to say that every single person in the United States has been affected and I’d wager that every single person has felt the stress and fear of uncertainty.
However, stressful and fearful the last several weeks have been, we can all take a collective breath and realize that we’ve made it this far and we’re going to keep making it. We will work through the obstacles and find a way to make the best of things.
The schools are only operating at limited capacity right now and while no one can say for sure if we are out of the woods just yet, our classrooms are once again full of laughter and singing and curious voices. And that feels like we’re on the right track.