DEAR FRIENDS OF THE PLAYING FIELD,
This is certainly not a typical example of our monthly newsletter. So much has happened that we could have never anticipated. Yet, our School Family has truly pulled together in this time.
On March 15th, we were notified that for the protection of students, families and staff, all K-12 schools in Dane County would be closing. Early childhood programs were left to decide for themselves whether to remain open or close. I made the decision to temporarily close our program. As the Executive Director, my first priority will always be the health and safety of our children, families and staff.
At the same time, we well understand the need for child care of families serving in essential service roles. Some of our staff are providing in-home care for families from our program or those they were matched with through The Department of Children and Families.
We have also been in regular communication with the City of Madison, Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, and state licensing to stay informed on the community needs and resources to support families serving in essential roles. We continue to look for ways we can serve our community.
I have been vocal in my stance that early childhood programs across the country have not been provided with adequate direction or resources for the work they are being asked to do. I will continue to advocate for our field because I know that I am truly advocating for young children and their families.
As always, I thank you for your interest and support of our work,
THE SCHOOL FAMILY MODEL AT WORK
About two thirds of our families receive child care subsidy funds. When the decision was made to temporarily close our program, our staff jumped into action to make sure all families had a safe place to stay, food, diapers, and other supplies.
We delivered boxes of food and supplies to families along with some activities to engage their children. Our teachers are conducting weekly check ins and we are utilizing our family emergency fund to be sure all families have needed items.
One parent, a single dad to three young children, let us know he was running low on food. Even though his local school was passing out meals, he couldn’t get there with his three children in tow. Our staff arranged food delivery for him to assure that he and his children are fed during this time.
One third of our families pay full tuition and they have responded graciously to support our entire School Family. Even though we did not bill tuition for April, several families donated the amount of their tuition to assure we could continue to support our staff and meet emergency family needs.
We are so grateful for our wonderful families and staff!
SUPPORTING THE SOCIAL EMOTIONAL NEEDS OF CHILDREN
During the outbreak of COVID-19, Conscious Discipline has made many resources available for children. You can find them on their website at consciousdiscipline.com.
Several of the tools have been created by our Executive Director, Abbi Kruse. The first was a social story explaining to children why schools had suddenly closed. Abbi created this story for the children at The Playing Field. She said, “All I could think was that we suddenly weren’t there for our children and I wanted them to know why.” That social story was then translated into 17 languages and made available to children allover the world.
The next social story Abbi created was for children experiencing homelessness during this pandemic. She knew their experiences would be very different from children who were in their homes during this time.
You can see all the resources produced by Conscious Discipline and the six social stories written by Abbi at the link below:
Conscious Discipline has also released several helpful webinars. Dr. Bailey offered insight on how uncertainty impacts the brain. Jill Molli offered one on successful home learning and Abbi offered one to those providing child care to essential service staff. You can find all of them at the link below:
LEARNING AS WE GO
As many schools across the country have done, The Playing Field has begun to offer some online opportunities for our children, families, and staff to connect. Each classroom has been holding a weekly online “meeting.”
Our teachers have used this time to help children and families engage with each other and have fun. The meetings have been well received and attended by many privately funded and scholarship families. However, our staff also noted a low number of Early Head Start families were responding to the offer.
As a school family, we really had to look at ourselves and consider if what we were offering was meeting the needs of all families. Many families are in tight quarters with a lot of people present. Others may simply not be comfortable with attending online meetings or may lack technology.
We are grateful to our teachers who were willing to examine the issues related to access and equity. The staff broke into three groups and made a plan for the creation and delivery of hands on learning materials that will be delivered to families along with diapers, formula and groceries.
Keeping the children engaged with meaningful activities is important to all of us. We also hope that it helps to reduce some of the stress our families may be experiencing at this time.
We still plan to continue with the online connection opportunities but, we are extending an invitation to residents from Attic Angel to join us. We always want to encourage our staff, children and families to find ways to serve the community.
The Playing Field has always valued inclusion, empathy, problem solving and helpfulness. These core values are at work even in a time of great uncertainty. We can continue to learn and grow together- even when we are apart.