For Queen Emma Preschool (QEP) parents, every day of the summer session began the same–with QEP faculty and staff directing each car to a parking stall, followed by a series of health questions before they were allowed to leave their child at school. The scene in the morning can feel a bit surreal–with all hands on-deck, socially-distanced staff suited-up in personal protective gear and wait in the wings for students to complete the check-in process so that they can escort them to their classrooms. While the morning greeting has been unconventional, the familiar voices and cheerful spirits of faculty and staff shine through their face masks and shields and parents are quickly put at ease.
Many new processes and procedures were put in place this summer and a decreased student enrollment made for some adjustments, but despite it all, learning didn’t skip a beat. With smaller groups, the faculty has been able to provide more one-to-one attention to students, as well as lend support to other faculty across classrooms. “We were able to implement our written policies with a small number of families and make changes as needed. Teachers are implementing physical distancing between groups but creating multiple small centers for two children to play together within groups,” said Susan Okoga, Queen Emma Preschool Director.
The Pre-K class held at the downtown campus on Queen Emma Square also benefited from the new format. “We let the kids take the lead and let their interests guide many of our projects,” said Pre-K teacher, Shelley Kong. “We did a variety of activities including animal research books, salad spinner art, and popsicle stick catapults, just to name a few! And to end with a bang, we hosted a Spirit Week, our last week, with each day’s theme chosen by the students! Pajama Day was a favorite.”
When parents drop-off their children in the morning, they leave feeling confident that their children are safe, well-cared for, and will have another day of learning. “Parents are so happy and thankful for the work that the teachers are doing and to have their children in a safe place where they can play and have fun. Parents are constantly commenting that they are so grateful for all the work that the teachers are doing and for being outside every morning and afternoon. One parent commented that her child was so extremely happy to see his teacher and friends again that it brought her to tears,” said Okoga.
While the summer did not come without challenges–the constant washing and disinfecting being one–the summer session ultimately was an opportunity for faculty to get into a rhythm of all the added steps and safety measures that are now a necessary part of their school day. With summer session winding down, they seem to have hit their stride and are ready for the new school year.