COVID-19 closures impact preschools

Although adjusting to a new normal has posed a challenge for parents, the extra family time has been a silver lining.

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  • | 11:30 a.m. April 1, 2020
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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With businesses, universities and schools closing across the country to stop the spread of COVID-19, preschools and some daycare centers have followed suit. 

The closure of such establishments that provide childcare for the youngest age groups has left many families with young children adjusting to a new normal. That adjustment has posed a challenge for parents such as Amy Costin, of Windermere. Her daughter is enrolled in the preschool program at Windermere Union Church, and her son is enrolled in a program for 2-year-olds at the church. When the church closed its facilities, those programs have since moved online.

“Our regular routines being turned upside down has been the most challenging — trying to find our new normal routine,” Costin said. “The kids usually have scheduled activities and a routine, and getting out of that (is challenging). … Without their routine of music and kinder-gym and just the switch-ups of the day with their academics and activities, it’s hard to kind of offer that same thing at home, especially when you have kids ... in three different age groups.”

Costin works as a dental hygienist, but her job has been put on pause because of the pandemic. She also is an instructor in the dental hygiene school at Valencia College. Her classes have been converted online, and she’s able to work from home, but someone still needs to be around to watch the children and help them with their online work. Fortunately, she has help from other members of her family.

“We’re not able to go into work, (but) my parents — fortunately — are available, so I have my mom’s help to be able to home school (my children),” Costin said. “(For Valencia), I’m downloading different apps for being able to meet and engage with my students. That’s been a challenge at times and a little more time-consuming trying to keep up with that and all the emails when I’m trying to get my kids situated, as well.”

Marci Sgattoni, a preschool teacher at Windermere Union Church, is accustomed to hands-on learning, and adjusting to distance learning has been a new venture. She has been using online tools to teach her students and keep up with families from home. Each week, she sends out letters by mail filled with fun activities for families to try with their little ones. Sgattoni even sends her students videos each morning just so her students can see her every day.

“For the first time, we’re doing preschool from home, which is something I never thought would happen, because one of the main purposes of preschool is socialization and getting children used to being in a classroom and interacting with teachers and their classmates,” Sgattoni said. “We are utilizing email, computer programs and video apps to keep that connection going with our families. For example, for show-and-tell this week, on the video app, we’re having the kids send little videos to us of their show-and-tell for the letter, “U,” which is what our letter is this week.” 

Katie Hardy, a first-grade teacher at Foundation Academy Lower School in Winter Garden, has one son who attends Foundation’s preschool and another in the daycare program. With Foundation classes moving online, Hardy balances her time at home between teaching her students and helping her sons with their education, as well.

“It has definitely thrown off our routine,” Hardy said. “My husband is still working each day, so it’s just me home with the boys. … Between my oldest (child’s) schoolwork plus working on my own, I’ve been putting in some long hours and working at night when I don’t usually.

“Part of what we’re doing is creating videos for our students,” Hardy said of working from home. “There was one time, I was trying to create a video, and my 1-and-a-half-year-old was crawling on top of my head. Today, I was doing a Google Meet explaining something to a parent, and (my son) was crawling on the table, walking on the table and eating Play-Doh, so it has definitely been interesting.”

Although COVID-19 has thrown off the schedules of these families, there’s a silver lining: Spending  some extra time together.

“It’s forced family time … but when it comes down to it, family time (is something) we could all use (and) put more time into,” Costin said. “(The) big picture is there’s plenty of positives to take away.”

“That’s kind of the beauty of all of this — despite the craziness, we get more time with the ones we love,” Hardy said. “When we look and when our kids look back at it, I think that they won’t remember the toilet paper shortage, but they’ll remember that we went on family walks every day and got to do school at home.”


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