With schools closed and many parents still working full-time (even from home), the need for safe, consistent childcare is as important as ever. Still, there are strict guidelines all daycare centers and preschools need to follow in order to ensure the safety of both the employees and the children left in their care. If you’re currently open or about to reopen, you’ll want to first check with your local agencies to make sure you’re following the protocols in your area. In the meantime though, here are some general rules to follow, suggested by the CDC:
Ramp up your disinfecting practices
Come up with a schedule for cleaning various areas throughout your center, determining what needs to be cleaned between uses, what needs to be cleaned every couple of hours, and what can be cleaned daily. The CDC offers a suggested schedule you can follow. As a general rule of thumb, those areas and objects that are frequently touched by the little ones (toys, countertops, play structures, doorknobs) need to be consistently sprayed or wiped down with EPA-registered, fragrance-free disinfectants. You’ll want to make sure all cleaning supplies are kept out of reach of children, and only used when there is enough ventilation to avoid exposing small kids to the fumes. At the end of each day, toys should be more thoroughly rinsed and washed with detergent, particularly those that children may be putting in their mouths.
Organize drop-off and pick-up for parents
Consider staggering drop-off and pick-up times to limit the number of families at your site at one time. To limit interaction and exposure, arrange to have staff meet the children as they arrive, so parents are not coming in and out of your facility. If possible, you may even consider having a parent volunteer escort children into the center and back to their parents’ cars.
Screen everyone on arrival
Before allowing anyone to enter the facility, a staff member should check every adult or child for signs of illness (rapid breathing, flushed cheeks, coughing), as well as take their temperature. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees should not be admitted under any circumstances. To ensure the safety of your staff during screening, they should be behind a protective plastic or glass barrier, and be wearing gloves when taking temperatures. Non-contact thermometers are the safest option to protect your staff, as well as the families.
Although it’s not the most comfortable, every adult and child over the age of 2 should be wearing a mask at all times, except obviously when they’re eating or drinking.
Implement social distancing guidelines
As best you can, try to keep children in small pods every day, limiting how many people they’re being exposed to. You will also want to limit the number of children in any one area at a time by staggering times on the playground, at the art table, on the carpet, and other contained spaces. In addition, try to spread out mats and cribs during naptime, keeping them at least 6 feet apart. If you do not have the space, children can lie down head to toe to limit face-to-face exposure.
Make sure staff and children are practicing good hygiene
All staff and children should be encouraged to sanitize their hands as frequently as possible. To that end, you’ll want to ensure there are plenty of hand sanitizing stations throughout your facility so they are accessible when most needed. For example, be sure to have adults and children sanitize their hands when they arrive at the facility, before and after preparing or handling food, before and after diapering, after using the restroom, and after playing outdoors. Children and adults should be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when they are able to get to the sink, and use alcohol-based (at least 60% alcohol) hand sanitizers in between.
Be prepared for the worst-case scenario
Should someone become sick, you’ll want to have a plan in place. First, if a child falls ill while in your care, have an isolation room or area where they can be removed from others, and be sure to thoroughly disinfect that space after they have gone home. Should someone test positive for COVID-19, open all of the doors and windows in your facility to allow for ventilation and wait 24 hours(or longer) before returning to sanitize. All surfaces should be disinfected, especially those spaces where the infected person most came into contact. Should one of your employees become sick, you’ll want to be sure you have substitutes on hand to fill-in so you can ensure the appropriate ratio of staff to children.
For additional, in-depth information, please see the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/guidance-for-childcare.html#CleanDisinfect