‘Special people’ help VCU’s CDC team navigate the pandemic
Thanks to its committed, professional staff, the Child Development Center continues to provide unwavering support to children and their families.
By Sara Burns
Despite the numerous shutdowns and temporary closures of similar facilities due to the pandemic, the VCU Child Development Center (CDC) has continued to provide unwavering support to children and their families, primarily thanks to the commitment, flexibility and professionalism of the center’s staff. Even with the stress the staff felt when the center closed for eight weeks last summer due to the pandemic, they turned their despair into hope and excitement as they welcomed children back and continue to work with them each day.
The CDC offers an all-day child care program with educational resources for children of VCU faculty, staff, students and the community. The center is affiliated with the VCU School of Education, which facilitates faculty research, student pre-service experience, as well as other special educational features and outreach.
Thomas Beatty, Ed.D., the center’s director, said that the past year has required almost constant adjustment by the center’s staff as new protocols had to be developed in response to the pandemic to keep everyone safe.
“We have to be flexible and creative,” he said. “But we make it work.”
Adjustments to daily life at the CDC began at the outset of the pandemic. Beatty said that the first few weeks of COVID-19 were scary, and many teachers and staff were worried about everyone’s health. They overcame this fear by looking at the bigger picture.
“They realized that many of the children they work with have parents who are essential workers, such as those in the medical field,” Beatty said. “If the children didn’t have a place to go, their parents couldn’t continue to do important work for the community.”
In addition to wearing masks and practicing social distancing, drop-offs are different, with parents calling ahead and meeting a staff member outside. Both the parent’s and child’s temperature are taken. However, Beatty said that if a child is having a hard time saying goodbye to their parent, the center does have a special protocol where the parent may accompany the child inside the building, wearing a disposable gown and mask until the child is ready to separate from the parent and join their class. Afternoon pickups are the same. The parent calls ahead and a staff member meets the parent at the door with their child. Everyone has gotten used to this new way of doing things.
“This work is not for the faint of heart. It takes special people, just like the CDC teachers and staff, to really be able to do this work and to do it well.”
In addition to safety and emotional well-being, teachers have found creative ways to maintain the social education that’s so important in early childhood – even in an age of social distance.
“The children want to give high-fives to each other, so now we draw a hand on a stick,” Beatty said. “They love it because when they want to give a high-five, they just raise the stick and do it that way.”
Beatty said that it’s an honor to stand beside everyone who works in the center, especially seeing how hard they’ve worked the past year while never losing their focus on the children.
“This work is not for the faint of heart. It takes special people, just like the CDC teachers and staff, to really be able to do this work and to do it well,” Beatty said.