As businesses around the state continue to reopen, parents face the challenge of finding childcare. Governor Baker’s executive order closed all but essential child care programs as of March 22, 2020. Childcare agencies were able to open in late June but face strict regulations as they reopen.
The regulations have forced childcare providers to completely reevaluate their classrooms, adapting to meet the limited capacity, mask requirements, and social distancing policies on behalf of both staff and students. “It’s been a learning thing for sure,” says Bedford Children’s Center (BCC) President Daisy Girifalco, who opened her doors June 29. BCC is currently running summer childcare with half the number of its normal students. For Girifalco, opening up means completely committing to following safety protocols. “Safety first and foremost,” she said, “We’re encouraging good behavior like social distancing, not getting in each other’s faces, not touching faces, cleaning toys after a child uses them so they aren’t sharing toys,” as well as all children over 2-years-old wearing masks, separate areas for children to play, and more time outside.
The Bedford Montessori School will open for their academic year in August and plans to implement similar policies as BCC: smaller classes, socially distanced students, and constant sanitization. They also will hold more classes outside rather than in the classroom. Director Patricia Shapiro said they’re looking into “redesigning our programs to move parts of the classroom outside,” including art, science, and reading classes.
While safety regulations make reopening more difficult, local schools and childcare providers are adapting to meet these regulations and provide the safest conditions for their students and staff. New experiences like outdoor learning offer students unique learning experiences, while simultaneously creating a safer atmosphere.
At the Bedford Free Public Library, the Children’s librarians have also developed new programs to offer to families. While they are unsure of when they’ll be able to hold in-person programs, they are currently offering online activities for children including art classes, storytimes, and musical performances. They hope to implement more programming for adults soon as well. They’re also preparing to create a ‘Story Walk’, where families follow a picture book displayed along a walking path outside.
Although the safety regulations make running normal programming significantly more difficult, local childcare providers are persevering to provide a safe and educational experience for their students. With the rapidly-changing environment of a Covid-19 society, they must constantly be on their toes. Shapiro explained the regulations for the Fall could look very different from what they currently are, and parents must “understand that they’re being frequently reviewed and may change at any point.”