Flexibility Is Key: Keeping the Childcare Center Open During A Pandemic

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Photo by Ana Aponte

A full view of the Children’s Learning Center at NJCU.

Ariana Perez, Contributing Writer

NJCU’s Children’s Learning Center continues to operate while following the state guidelines for Covid to help with some of the difficulties some parents are facing.

Established in the Spring of 1982, the childcare center was made for students who may need some help watching their kids during a time where many places have limited space, or their hours changed.

According to the center’s director Ana Aponte, there are only eight students in a classroom with only one room available during this time. However, most of the faculty still work from home and have chosen to conduct their classes online. “A quiet campus has led to a quiet center,” Aponte said.

A quiet campus has led to a quiet center”

— Ana Aponte

The center stays true to its mission as a “retention tool,” but in these times that mission is needed now more than ever. The center understands that a child’s education is important, and during Covid, extra steps are taken to ensure that the child is safe while still getting the educational stimulus they need.

When the pandemic first started back in March, the center transitioned quickly to remote learning until the semester ended in May. The summer semester was more difficult. “Our center enrolls children from ages 2.5-6. It is not developmentally appropriate to expect children in this age range to participate fully in remote learning,” Aponte said.

To help make that easier, the center came up with flexible learning lessons where parents can set up a time with the curriculum. The teachers then had to accommodate every child’s specific needs. Aponte said, “The schedule was a bit scattered but we did whatever it took to keep the children engaged and the parents satisfied with the virtual program.”

In the beginning, the center faced issues of staying open like many other places. Extra steps had to be taken to maintain the health and safety of staff and children. Children usually interact with one another through high fives, hugs, playing together, etc. Now, this changes as social distancing are mandated. The center has to keep children apart which is described as “heartbreaking” by Aponte.

While it may have been difficult to keep in the state’s safety guidelines, the center managed to do it and now help relieve some of the worry and stress of parents attending classes.

Recently, the center was awarded the “Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant from the U.S. Department of Education,” which helps low-income students with childcare expenses so they can “persist and graduate.” During this time with Covid, this grant can help students who are parents and are struggling to maintain everything going on with school and life in general.