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Renewed Hope

Do we dare look back too hard at 2020 as the promise of a new year is all we wish to look forward to? When I do reflect I am struck by how difficult last year was, but also how it gave me renewed hope for a world upended.

As we headed into spring to celebrate warmer weather and exit flu season, we were suddenly and dramatically thrust into an uncertain climate of fear for our health, our future, and our families. The centers all closed while we did our part to flatten a curve that was hardly elevated compared to where we are now. 

At that time we didn’t know if we’d ever reopen and if we did would we be risking the lives of our teachers, children, and parents? How would we survive if we didn’t and how could we live our mission in the meantime? Grab-and-go lunches, Facetime or Zoom circle times, and an open food pantry helped keep families going that truly needed some connection and basics.

When we reopened, we did so with a lot of trepidation, consideration, and hope that we were doing the right thing and that all would be well. New restrictions such as no parents inside have been difficult at best. No shoes inside and mask-wearing for everyone 3 and above ensued while we struggled through what it would look like if someone became infected. Daily temperature taking, increased cleaning, and extra hands to deliver children to classrooms all make for the safest environment possible. 

Massive support from Central District Health got us through our first closure and then another two after that. Short staffing at most centers has resulted in shortened hours and one more closure due to the number of teachers out for quarantine and there simply not being enough to cover the classrooms. All of our locations have been affected as have all of our families and teachers. 

The strength that our teachers have displayed is remarkable. They are truly front line workers who are also critical to our economic recovery while being one of the most essential workers on the planet, even before a pandemic. They have demonstrated resilience, humor, patience, and love toward their students and parents. They are the foundation of our organization and we will be honoring them next month during our Lovefest ski-a-thon and virtual auction if you’d like to join in.

Parents have also struggled with very little contact and communication with staff and each other and not being able to enter the center has felt isolating and difficult. The trust parents have had to place in us is incredible and worthy of mentioning. They’ve also stood by us through limited hours, closures, and teacher changes. They are a solid bunch and we are grateful to have their support. 

The children. We all know children are resilient and that they bounce back better than most of us. While this is true, they are feeling it too. Their drop off and pick up is not like it used to be where they could show their parent the turtle and the book they read that day. Their friends all have masks on and a new awareness of germs and cleaning routines are noted. Less children and teachers are around as some of their friends haven’t returned yet due to their parents being unemployed and/or working from home. Whatever their situation, children have noticed and are often feeling the stress of the adults in their life. Yet they continue to learn and thrive and grow in ways that are undeniable and having supportive adults in their life is what matters most. 

We can say we made it. Toilet paper shortages, temperature taking, masks, and drier hands than normal due to washing, washing, washing, and some of us getting Covid-    19 and recovering. We know January isn’t going to change where we are, but we do know we have tackled this now for several months and our hope is renewed each time we reflect on where we were and how far we’ve come. 

Here’s to a different 2021 where teachers are in Phase II to be vaccinated and hopefully we find an ending to what’s been a very unique and challenging year. Thanks for taking the journey with us and being a part of children’s lives in so many important ways.

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