Child development center reopens amid three possible COVID-19 cases

The+Cerritos+College+Child+Development+Center+reopened+as+of+Aug.+24.+The+center+is+located+at+11051+166th+St%2C+Cerritos%2C+CA+90703.

Courtesy of Child Development

The Cerritos College Child Development Center reopened as of Aug. 24. The center is located at 11051 166th St, Cerritos, CA 90703.

Eileen Osuna, Staff Writer

“The motivation to reopen was to support and aid our Falcon community of working parents and our students, who we promised to serve to be successful and remain enrolled in their classes,” Director Debra Ward said in regards to the Aug. 24 reopening of the Child Development Center.

Despite COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place, such as the daily screening of staff, children and their families, the Cerritos College Child Development Center has reported three possible exposures to COVID-19.

Ward said the cases consisted of two children who were exposed outside of the center and later tested negative as well as a staff member who was exposed within the same week.

“The children and staff were self quarantined,” she said, “Our families and staff that may have been in contact with the children and staff were immediately alerted.”

According to Ward, both the college and the center reported the cases to Community Care Licensing and the Department of Public Health to help guide them in the next steps to not put any of the community members at risk. These steps included closing two of the classrooms that were affected for two days and a deep cleaning of the classrooms and outdoor play areas conducted by the facility maintenance crew.

Moreover, there are a number of protocols that the center has implemented, even before the reported exposures.

The indoor learning environment has been extended to the outdoors to keep the classroom outside as much as possible and when indoors, or even before and after the children arrive, the doors and windows are open to ventilate the classroom.

The furniture and play space in the center maintain a separation of six-feet whenever possible, all touched surfaces are cleaned and sanitized frequently and after each use including the toys children play with and children are given individual totes with their materials to limit the amount of sharing.

As far as parent interactions, drop offs occur outside of the classroom at different locations for each age group, one family at a time, where parents are required to wear a face mask and are screened for COVID-19. To avoid new visitors, the center asks that the same parent drop off and pick up their children.

In addition, the center aims to keep children from the same family, the same teacher and the same teachers assistant in the same group, with Ward and teachers arranging developmentally appropriate experiences for smaller group activities.

Before March, Ward said they were providing childcare for 96 children full-time in four classrooms along with providing breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack as well as naps.

However, since the start of the pandemic, there have been many modifications to the curriculum and center environment to support the children in maintaining safe social distancing and emphasize the importance of health and safety, including hand washing.

“We have scaled down our group sizes, serving about half of our families in person while engaging with the other half virtually doing distance learning,” Ward said, “We separated the outdoor tables into four areas where we serve one snack to children.”

Ward has also modified program hours of operation to serve families in two part-time sessions with a ratio of one to five teachers and assistants for a group of 10 children.

Ward said they also provide distance learning for those children and families not ready to come back to the center. “We have three morning sessions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and one afternoon session from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., ” she said.

Even with all these changes and protocols in place, there have been concerns from parents and the community over everyone’s health and safety with the reopening of the Child Development Center.

Ward said they gave parents a choice of whether they wanted to remain virtual or return to school in person.

“We established community agreements to ensure everyone returning to school was aware of the risk and the responsibility they had in collaborating with us to keep their families and others’ health and safety a priority,” she said, “These measures helped make our return to school feel less scary for our families and staff members at the Center.”