The CDC reports that COVID-19 cases have been on the rise since September, while peak flu season (from December to February) is also fast approaching. Because children ages 5 and younger are at high risk for flu complications, childcare centers must continue to implement best health practices for the months ahead. This article will show you how to keep your center safe, proactively prepare for winter illness season, and increase the likelihood of remaining open.
Maintain best practices for illness prevention
One of the best ways to protect your center is to get the flu shot and to ask your staff and families to do the same. If you decide to make flu shots mandatory at your center, check that it’s clearly stated or updated in your health policy and communicate any changes to your staff and families. If you aren’t going to require flu shots, do your best to encourage families and staff to get vaccinated, reminding them that the CDC recommends flu shots for every person 6 months and older. Make sure they know where they can get the vaccine as well—vaccinefinder.org is a great resource for finding local providers! With insurance, flu shots are also free in many convenient locations, including drugstores, pharmacies, and doctor’s offices.
Fortunately, you can also combat flu season by continuing your best COVID-19 practices. Keep up your rigorous cleaning and hygiene protocols at your center, including frequent hand washing and disinfecting common surfaces and areas throughout the day. Stick to your illness policies and reiterate to staff and families that it’s best to stay home when sick. To proactively monitor the health of your staff and students, you might also conduct health checks throughout the day so you can catch symptoms sooner than later. Administrators and teachers can use brightwheel to log this data for both staff and students to create an organized, ongoing health record that can easily be shared with parents if needed.
It’s equally important to limit the number of adults entering your facility. If you’re not already doing so, consider modifying your drop-off and pick-up procedures. Even if contactless drop-off isn’t mandated by your state, erring on the safe side can help prevent illness and can help your center stay open. With brightwheel, your families can check their students in and out using their phones, eliminating the need to step indoors or use paper, pens, and other shared items that could spread germs. If it’s feasible with your student and staff ratios, you can also organize teachers and students into smaller pods that stick together throughout the day. By keeping these groups separate, you’ll reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 and the flu.
Prepare for COVID-19 and flu scenarios at your center
As you prepare for flu season, you can build off all the hard work you’ve already done adapting to COVID-19. Here are three main categories to plan for:
Travel will inevitably pick up in the next few weeks across the U.S. If you have families who are traveling this holiday season, communicate openly with them about the associated risks and the right precautions to take, and remind them to follow local health and safety guidelines wherever they go. Once their students return, you can:
- Ask families to temporarily switch to distance learning for a few days to two weeks, especially after heavy traveling.
- Ask families who are traveling to COVID-19 hotspots to produce a negative COVID test or quarantine for 14 days before returning to the center.
- Ask families to quarantine for 14 days if anyone in their group was exposed to COVID-19 while traveling.
If you plan to make any of these steps a requirement, remember to update your center’s health policy and communicate with families accordingly!
Student or staff illnesses
Create a set action plan so you can respond quickly and safely if a student or staff member becomes ill while at your center. Decide where you’ll isolate the sick student or staff—a separate room is ideal, but a cot in the corner also works well. Assign who will clean all infected areas and who will contact the family of the sick student. Lastly, know who your substitute teachers are and how to reach them for a smooth replacement process.
Learn more about how to respond if someone in your center gets COVID-19 or the flu.
While we hope your center won’t need to close, it’s important to stay prepared for all possible circumstances. Here are steps you can take for a smoother transition if necessary:
- Have a plan to determine when you should close. Work with your local health department to establish what would warrant a closure for your center, whether it’s a confirmed COVID-19 case for a student, associated family member, or any other scenario.
- Update your contracts and parent handbook with new tuition policies during closures.
- Create and implement a distance learning program. This will help your center continue to provide value for families and potentially collect tuition even while closed.
- Move your operations online so you can access critical parts of your business from anywhere with a tool like brightwheel! This way, you can reduce time-consuming work like going into the office to get files or collecting payments manually.
- Make sure your contact information is up to date for students, families, staff, and substitute teachers so it’s one less thing to worry about while your center is closed.
This year has been anything but easy, and we are so grateful for the hard work you’ve done to keep your students safe and your centers running. To learn more about how to operate your childcare successfully during COVID-19, check out our resource page and download our free eBook, 4 Keys to Building a More Resilient Early Education Center During COVID-19!
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at mybrightwheel.com.