Updated: Sep 11
After a long four months of closure, and the experience of juggling work, family, learning, and all the emotions that come along with being in the middle of a pandemic, we were pleased to finally be able to once again open our doors to the children, families and staff that make up our Thistleoaks Family back in July. With great consideration we put together and communicated plans and protocols that would set the foundation for our evolution into “the new norm”. We anticipated mixed feelings and emotions, and many questions and moved forward with a focus on making sure we are meeting the emotional needs of all. On July 13th we were greeted with smiles as we were able to reconnect in person and resume our programs.
I like to consider the changes to our programs as an evolution because, although they provide some challenge, there are some definite benefits to them as well. “The new norm” now includes daily screenings and temperature checks, which give us all confidence that everyone in the program is well in health. It gives us opportunity to meet and greet each other every day, with full attention and intent.
With “the new norm”, there are fewer toys and materials in the programs, which results in children becoming more innovative and creative in their play and inquiry. It’s really quite intriguing to see how children approach the spaces and materials available, and how they interact with one another and the environment when materials are limited and open-ended… you can literally watch their imaginations soar, and experience new discoveries alongside them!
The toys and equipment are cleaned and disinfected frequently, thanks to the hard work of our Sanitation Team, who have developed an entire system of scheduling and record-keeping for the cleaning and disinfecting, to ensure Thistleoaks is set up for success to reduce the potential for the spread of infection. The Sanitation Team have made the Flexi Room their home base, stocked with all the supplies that will be needed each day. Camaraderie ensues among the team as they work together in great spirits, meeting the strict pandemic health and safety protocols that keep us all healthy and safe.
With the increase in frequency of hand-washing, children can follow individual cues for when they need to wash hands and take on a leadership role as they model the procedures for others in their cohorts. Good hand-washing practices are the #1 proven method of reducing the spread of infection! Our children and staff are now masters of hand hygiene!
We have success in welcoming back previous children and welcoming new children, seeing comfort and ease in transitions that we anticipated might be challenging without our typical visitation practices. Families and educators have had opportunity to connect over the phone or have taken the time to arrange a physically distance “meet and greet” to gain some familiarity with one another. Tours and visits are being offered after-hours so new parents can see the space without close contact with others. We appreciate all the positive feedback we’ve gotten from parents about their feelings of comfort in the protocols we’ve put into place to support their child’s health, safety and overall well-being. It truly warms our hearts to have your confidence and support!
Lovely lively little cohorts are the biggest benefit to “the new norm”. Though we may not have this luxury for long, and the norm will evolve again in to larger cohorts as we ease into fall and winter, the children were initially placed in smaller mixed age groupings of up to 8 children, with 2 or more educators in each classroom space. It’s amazing to watch children learn from and support one another while on their own individual developmental journey. The educators are thrilled with the opportunity to spend that little bit extra one-on-one time with each child and the increased ability to observe and respond to their individual needs and interests. Suddenly time has resurfaced, allowing cohorts to engage more fully in their explorations, for longer periods of time, and at greater depths.
The pedagogical documentation and communication coming from the Thistleoaks team is outstanding and has actually been amplified as educators find more innovative ways to share information and document and share children’s developmental growth. Educators are finding more pockets of time and gumption to challenge themselves, and further develop their pedagogical documentation skills. It’s amazing what you pick up on when you are in an environment with less – less distractions, less materials, less transitional routines, etc., enabling more time and more depth to these discoveries!
Children and educators have gained a keen sense of familiarity and comfort with each other as they navigate through the new norm, building a refreshed sense of belonging, well-being, engagement, and expression. On any given day, one will see an array of activity happening both indoors and outdoors at Thistleoaks such as painting, picnics, role playing, neighbourhood walks, nature exploration, bike riding, bug hunts, science experiments, water play with sprinklers and puddles, individual sensory play, and so much more! Children have more time, freedom, support and encouragement to thoroughly explore their environments, to take risks, and to discover their competencies!
A few notes and reminders for families for September:
Operating Hours – will expand to 7:30am to 4:45pm as of September 21, 2020
Cohort Drop-off and Pick-up Times - will remain the same. Parents who require special accommodations, can still make arrangements with me or Cheryl
Cohort sizes - will slowly increase over the next few months, up to our operating capacity
Kindergarten & School Age Programs – will not be offered this fall. We will revisit this decision for January, dependent on the state of the pandemic at that time
Staffing Changes – Ms. Nisha and Ms. Eva will be moving to the Pine Room. Ms. Alyssa will move to the Birch Room to work with Ms. Lorena
Daily Screening – parents and children are reminded to maintain physical distancing during the daily screening. All parents (and children that can tolerate one) are encouraged to wear a mask.
Exclusion from Care - If your child, or anyone in your family, develops any symptom of illness listed on our Screening Survey, please do not attend the centre, and inform the office. Your child will be excluded from care and can return when the individual has been symptom-free for 48 hrs and:
--a COVID-19 test has been completed, with a negative result, OR
--the individual has been assessed by a doctor and documentation is provided that confirms the symptoms are not COVID-19-related, OR
--the individual has self-isolated for 14 days