Response to COVID-19

In these extraordinary times, LPK is committed to serving our community by providing a pre-kindergarten learning environment that safely and creatively answers the challenge of schooling during the coronavirus pandemic.

The following policies and procedures outline LPK’s response to COVID-19. Because this pandemic is so dynamic, they will be open to revision.

LPK is bound by the mandates of the Maryland Department of Education (MSDE), which is our licensing body, and our policies will be driven by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, we will receive guidance from the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) and other local, state, and federal entities.

It will be tricky to strike the balance between what is appropriate for a preschool classroom and what will keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But safety has always been a priority for LPK, and never before has that priority been more critical.

Our goal is to provide a safe, nurturing setting that supports learning and growth for our little ones.

A Commitment to Creativity in Teaching

During these challenging months ahead, please know that LPK’s teachers are committed to creating an environment that promotes learning through play, investigation, and discovery. We expect to take a lot of our learning outside and we will be flexible and innovative with our daily routine and activities – all while keeping safety at the forefront.

COVID-19 and its associated restrictions/limitations have lead us to rethink the opportunities available to us as a school, and encouraged us to find new and exciting ways for our students to discover our world. First and foremost, we intend to take advantage of the wonderful spaces just outside our door. We have a large playground area with an even larger grassy area adjacent to it. And directly across the street (very walkable!) we have a wonderfully kid-friendly park – Poplar Springs Park.

Poplar Springs Park is maintained by Howard County and has a nature hiking trail that meanders across streams, through forests and into open meadows. These stimulating outdoor spaces will inform many learning activities. Sticks, leaves, rocks, and the like will be ready manipulatives. They will help us to learn a variety of concepts, including math and early literacy skills. We know that children are natural-born scientists, filled with curiosity – and there is no doubt that our time in nature will prompt many questions and explorations. Whether we are creating shapes with sticks, sorting leaves by attributes, or making fairy gardens with natural materials, we will be learning.

Back on our campus, we will observe our “learning tree” (a big, beautiful maple) throughout the year. We will explore the bark, rake the leaves in the fall, enjoy story and snack times in the shade of its branches, and anticipate new buds in the spring. We will take “listening walks,” go on nature-inspired scavenger hunts, fly kites, jump in puddles, plant in our raised garden beds, and do so much more!

Should the need arise, we are prepared to implement distance learning via Zoom meetings. We successfully dipped our toe into that pool in the spring of 2020 as we held Zoom meetings with all classes, allowing students to stay connected. In addition to Zoom, there is the possibility of regular Facebook posts providing learning suggestions (which were also successfully implemented) and drive by/pick up “take home project packs” with learning materials for families to use at home.

Helping our Children Navigate this New Reality

We encourage LPK families to talk to their children about COVID-19 and the precautions it necessitates, especially wearing a mask, washing hands, and keeping a safe distance from other people. Parents should be initiating conversations, answering questions, and providing age-appropriate information that will satisfy their children’s curiosity and dispel their fears. It is also helpful for parents to remember that their children’s emotional response to such precautions is likely to mirror his or her parents.’ Parents who approach precautions positively, in a spirit of helpfulness, will help their children to do the same.

A few helpful resources for parents in talking to their children about this new reality can be found at this CDC web page, in this article, in this song about why we wear masks, and at this website, which includes a number of stories to help children understand masks, temperature-taking, distance learning, etc.

Our goal is to empower each child with the knowledge and understanding to make healthy choices that help keep themselves, their families, and their friends safe. Done successfully, our students can feel like the super heroes they are!

Guidelines for Keeping A Healthy Classroom

In the interest of keeping our students, teachers, and helping parents healthy and safe, we have developed the following policies and procedures regarding masks, hygiene, cleaning, safeguards, COVID symptoms and diagnoses, drop-off/pick-up, and other classroom adjustments.

Will LPK teachers be required to wear a mask? Yes. LPK teachers will wear masks except when outside and eating snack.

Will LPK parents be required to wear a mask? Yes. Whenever entering the building, parents must wear a mask. When fulfilling the responsibilities of a “helping parent” a parent must wear a mask. Like the classroom teachers, the “helping parent” will be able to remove a mask for snack and outside time.

Will LPK students be required to wear a mask? Yes. All students will be required to wear masks except when outside and eating snack. The exception to this are those students who have an underlying condition for which mask-wearing would be deemed a health risk. LPK families are encouraged to familiarize their child with wearing a mask, have conversations, answer questions, and provide age-appropriate information that will dispel any fear associated with masks. The goal is to empower each child with the knowledge and understanding as to why masks are the healthy choice for protection during COVID-19. Done successfully, our students can feel like the super heroes they are!

We recommend that children have two masks for each day of school so that if one becomes soiled, another is available to use. Extra masks will stay in each child’s tote bag until needed. Any soiled mask will go inside the tote bag. It is important for each child to be able to confidently and correctly place a mask on his/her own face, and each child should know how to safely remove their mask.

What enhanced hygiene regulations will be in effect? All LPK students will rotate through a minimum of four hand washing routines per day: (1) upon arrival, (2) after table-top/manipulative time, (3) before snack time, and (4) after snack time. In addition, all students will wash their hands when they come into the classroom from having been outside. And as always, children will be reminded to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

During hand washing, students will be assisted by either the helping parent or one of the classroom teachers. Hands will be washed with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. When lining up for hand washing, students will stand on a marked spot on the floor so as to ensure distancing.

What additional cleaning protocols will be in effect? LPK will refer to the CDC’s Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility for written guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting. All high touch areas – door knobs, table-tops, bathroom surfaces, cabinets, chairs, cubbies – will be cleaned and disinfected (using an EPA-registered household disinfectant, an approved bleach, and/or an alcohol solution) at the end of each class. Each time we move away from the round tables, they will be wiped down (as per usual) and chairs will be wiped down, too. In addition, outside playground surfaces will be wiped down after use.

What additional safeguards will be taken to keep things clean? During class, many new safeguards will ensure that surfaces and materials remain clean and safe. As an example, each student will have his/her own bin that will include crayons, glue stick, scissors, and a pencil. Each student will have his/her own ball of play dough and related tools. Teachers will begin the year by explaining the whys and wherefores of this practice. Teachers will also closely monitor students to ensure that materials are not shared.

When painting at the easel, brushes and easel surfaces will be wiped with a disinfectant between each student. During table-top/manipulative time (aka gathering time), each round table will be limited to four students and there will be taped areas to denote individual play spaces. Students will not be able to share toys. At the end of gathering time, students will clean up and all used toys will be placed (by a teacher or “helping parent”) directly into a sanitizing bin in the kitchen.

When should I keep my child home from school? We know that coronavirus symptoms in children tend to be less severe than in adults. And we know that many of those same symptoms may result from allergies or the common cold. But in the name of safety, LPK will require children who are exhibiting any of the following symptoms to stay home from school:

  • fever or chills
  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • headache
  • muscle or body aches
  • sore throat
  • congestion or runny nose (with discolored mucus)
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • rash or changes in skin color
  • fatigue

Parents are responsible for reviewing the symptom checklist and keeping their child at home should any of the symptoms present. All students will need to be free of “stay at home” symptoms for a minimum of 48 hours before returning to LPK.

What will happen if my child becomes ill or exhibits a “stay at home” symptom while at LPK? Any child who becomes ill or exhibits a “stay at home” symptom while at school will be separated from his/her peer group and made comfortable until mom or dad (or any authorized adult) can come and take him/her home. The child will need to be symptom free for a minimum of 48 hours before returning to LPK.

What should I do if my child or a family member has received a probable COVID-19 diagnosis? Any probable COVID-19 diagnosis of a student or family member must be immediately reported to Miss Gail.  Miss Gail will notify the Howard County Health Department and the MSDE Office of Child Care. The Health Department will review the case and advise LPK as to how to proceed – that is, what procedures they should follow and whether quarantine is required for teachers, students, or families. The affected family or families will also receive directives from the Howard County Health Department.

Please refer to the Howard County Health Department for additional information: What Should I Do If I Think I’ve Been Exposed to COVID-19, and Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidelines for Positive Patients.

Anyone who has received a confirmed or probable diagnosis of COVID-19 – whether a teacher, student or family member – must have a note from their health care provider stating that they are released from isolation (and may return to school) before they return to LPK.

Are parents (or grandparents, nannies, etc.) allowed to enter the classroom at drop-off? Parents are able to step into the classroom to be present while their child puts their tote bag, jacket, etc. into their cubby. They’ll then have an opportunity to say goodbye before their child goes to wash his/her hands, which will be the next order of business for each student after they’ve arrived and put their things away. The “helping parent” will assist each child with the arrival hand washing routine.

What is the plan for dismissal/pick up at the end of class? As long as the weather cooperates, dismissal will take place from the outside playground. On days where the weather does not allow for dismissal from the playground, parents (masked!) will wait inside the lobby area, or on the sidewalk outside the school building, for their child to exit the classroom. A teacher will always ensure that a child is dismissed to an authorized grownup.

What additional adjustments will be made in and to the classroom? During center play in the classroom, children will be able to play cooperatively. Teachers and “helping parents” will facilitate play, ensuring that toys are minimally shared while still guaranteeing that complex and purposeful play is happening.

When children line up to go to snack, or to go outside, they will stand on a mark on the floor, assuring they are maintaining distance from their classmates. These “marks” will change, and will be utilized to introduce/reinforce various concepts – i.e.  colors, numbers, letters, shapes, sight words, etc.

Students will be spaced evenly, and apart, on the circle time carpet.

Windows will be opened to allow for the movement of air within the classroom. There are nine windows within the classroom, not including the kitchen area. Kitchen windows may also be opened to increase air flow.

The Cup Helper and Napkin Helper jobs will be removed from the Helper Chart. The “helping parent” will set the tables for snack. The Head Counter will no longer tap their friends’ heads during head counting. Instead, the counter will hold their hand above each head, without touching.

In Summary

COVID-19 has turned our world inside-out. It has caused an extremely challenging time for everyone on our planet. As we look forward to the coming school year, LPK will defer to science and to local, state and federal recommendations to inform our policy and procedures. LPK will base its decisions upon what is best for the students and families we serve. And LPK will do its best to help our students learn, grow, and thrive in these extraordinary, uncertain times.

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