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Childcare facilities offer safe escape for children during coronavirus

PHOTO PROVIDED The school aged kids had a chance to learn about density by making their very own lava lamps.

LOCK HAVEN — Many daycare/childcare centers and preschools are beginning to see a slow uptick in enrollment with the county moving from the red to yellow phase.

Of course, the return of kids during a pandemic can present it’s own set of challenges. Social distancing, wearing masks and good hygiene are practices that need to be included with ABCs, playtime and crafting.

At the Lock Haven YMCA, many of these precautions have been put in place.

Associate Executive Director Beth Bartlett said they’ve split their childcare classes between its two facilities. School-age children are housed in the YMCA while the pre-school children to infants are at the Susquehanna Avenue site.

“We thought that would be the best way to follow social distancing,” Bartlett explained.

PHOTO PROVIDED Abigale Probst focuses as she takes a turn on the climbing wall at the YMCA.

As of Wednesday, 14 pre-school aged children are at the Susquehanna Avenue site and 20 school-aged children are at the YMCA.

“I think each week we’ll start to see an increase,” she said.

To ensure social distancing, the children are being split up in as many rooms they can while still adhering to the proper ratio of children to an instructor.

“At the Susquehanna Avenue site with preschool kids we have three classrooms open and each one has two staff with six kids or less,” she said. “We also have a sick bay and if a child isn’t feeling well we place them there until their parents can take them home. We haven’t had any sick kids yet.”

At the YMCA, the school-aged kids are split up in three rooms to ensure CDC guidelines are met.

PHOTO PROVIDED Two young ladies hold up plants in pots they decorated for Mother’s Day after learning about photosynthesis.

Staff and children are required to wear masks while in close contact with each other and staff regularly sanitize heavily touched areas often, Bartlett said.

The Y is also forbidding any outside items from coming into the facilities with the exception of mobile devices that must be wiped down first.

When a child is dropped off, their temperature is taken and they’re asked a list of questions from the CDC to ensure they are not sick before entering the facility. Parents are no longer allowed to bring their kids into the building, she said.

Staff at the YMCA are trying to create a fun learning environment that can ease anxieties children may be having during this pandemic.

“We have been trying very hard to leave the pandemic outside and let them come in and be kids.,” Lori Lohman, senior school age child care director, said.

PHOTO PROVIDED Children take a turn on the obstacle course in the YMCA’s gym.

“Lori has given staff a task of doing education based activities,” Bartlett said.

From science, English, reading, math and art the staff have done their best to provide a bit of education for the older children who are missing out on learning in school.

“We’re trying every way we can. Our goal is to keep them learning,” Lohman said.

Since many of the kids began returning to the program last week, they’ve learned about photosynthesis, density, participated in math Jeopardy and taking part in a physical education class with an obstacle course.

The YMCA also hopes to hold their Summer Camp on June.

Other childcare facilities in the area have either reopened with precautions or remained closed due to government mandates.

Your Guardian Angel Preschool has been open throughout the pandemic to offer childcare for essential workers.

“We were given a waiver to stay open,” owner, Chris Bilbay said.

The staff at Your Guardian Angel are following strict guidelines to ensure cleanliness during the pandemic.

“We have enhanced cleaning, conduct temperatures checks at the door, ask routine symptom check questions and limit the number of people able to pick up and drop off kids,” Bilbay said.

The facility, located at the intersection of Jay and Church streets, hasn’t seen a flood of children return since the governor moved Clinton County into the yellow phase.

“We’re probably about 25 to 30 percent of our normal enrollment,” he said.

Both the Infant Development Program and Acorn School have remained closed due to being governed by the state department of education.

“We’re unable to have students at the center but our teachers and therapists are offering tele and virtual services,” Lisa Bangson, executive director of Infant Development, said. “Our Parents as Teachers program is still running with the virtual services as is our Parents and Children Together program which is used a lot by the courts.”

Dawn Jeffries, director of administrations at Acorn School, said they hope to reopen for a summer class or summer camp.

“We are anticipating reopening, we’re hoping on a summer class, a summer camp but everything hinges on the Department of Educations decision,” Jeffries said.

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