For those who are tired of reading another perspective on life with/after COVID-19, I apologize in advance because this is mine.
Preschools have always been niche places where students ages 10 months to 6 years old can go play and possibly learn something. How (the method) and when (at what age) to send a child to school have been debated for many years. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision for the parents depending on their situation. Who will take care of my child while we are at work? Are they independent enough? Do I trust the school to care for my child’s safety?
Let’s go back a few years, say December 2017.
Eduardo is a student at Cambridge Salcedo. Anxious like most children, he cries when I drop him off. It isn’t his first day of school but he cries anyway. He is a junior nursery student and has about 7 classmates. Upon entering, Manny (Cambridge Salcedo’s guard) takes his temperature and puts some hand sanitizer on his hands. “Good morning Eduardo!”, Manny greets. I get a notification on my phone that Eduardo is now in school, his temperature upon entering was 36.1 degrees celsius.
There is a debate between the centre directress and a parent or guardian because the child clocked in at 37.6 degrees. The child is sent home much to the chagrin of the parent/guardian but they understand. I rubber neck for about 10 seconds and off I go to work.
Fast forward to today, thermal scanning and hand sanitizing are now buzz words. I am told to share, to be understanding, to be kind, and, to flush the toilet (the last one I was reminded to do not by my government, but by my better half, Tracy.) These all sound like lessons being taught to Eduardo indeed!
Hand foot and mouth disease are a preschools nightmare. Children are especially prone to it and HFMD is highly contagious. As such, we’ve been using several methods to disinfect everything in our centres regularly. We’ve been used UV-C because it does not contain harmful chemicals. We still do use a sodium hypochlorite based solution to disinfect the door handles, toilets, and flooring. When this is used, it is wiped down with water afterwards and our UV-C machines go to work.
School matters for parents too. Even the most stringent work from home protocols are broken when your child barges in in the middle of a Zoom meeting. Parents’ productivity is certainly lowered.
Admittedly distance learning is new for us too. No amount of video conferencing, helicopter parenting or worksheets can replace real-life teachers. They playground, where battles for slide supremacy is a winner take-all game, cannot be replaced by Zoom to teach social skills. We have programs in place but will adjust based on the needs of our students. We admitted do not know the “best” way to do distance learning. Not everyone has popsicle sticks or even printers at home. We got your back. We’ll pack these up and send them to you.
Preschools are indeed fortunate to be slightly ahead of the curve because of the sensitive nature of child-care. Personal hygiene (part of our daily routine), taking ones outside shoes off before entering the centre, small class sizes, and temperature taking (and a record of it pushed out electronically) have been engrained in our routines for the last 19 years (the first Cambridge centre opened in the Philippines in 2001.) Those who are eager sending their children to big schools may want to reconsider and stay within the environment of a preschool for an additional year (30 students per class versus 7 per class.)
We are adding the requirement of children wearing masks (which we will be handing out for free) and possibly face-shields when students return to our centres on August 31, 2020 (this of course is subject to change based on the recommendations of our health experts.)
For me, the most important part of this reflection is that in preschool, students are encouraged to speak up when they don’t understand or don’t know something. So are teachers. So are school administrators. I “know” no more than the individual that reads the news and scours the internet with respect to COVID-19. I do know that safety, hygiene, and those playground social skills will always be useful though.
We look forward to seeing everyone (virtually next week) and physically (perhaps in August)!
President, Cambridge Philippines