As childcare centers prepare to reopen, the health and safety of students and staff are a top concern. In this guide, we’ll cover five adjustments you can make to keep your center as safe as possible. These guidelines are based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Please visit www.cdc.gov or check with your local public health department for the latest recommendations and additional information about stopping the spread of COVID-19.
1. Update your pick-up and drop-off policies
You can minimize risk by reducing the number of parents coming in and out of your facility and avoiding sharing items like pens.
- Consider moving the sign-in station outside your center. Ideally, the same parent or designated person should drop off and pick up the child every day. Limit entry to people who are essential for the care of children.
- If possible, stagger drop-off and pick-up times to avoid large numbers of people gathering outside your center. Brightwheel’s scheduling tool allows you to plan pick-up and drop-off times for each family.
- Provide hand sanitizer or hand washing facilities to use before and after families sign in and out.
- Consider switching to a touchless solution for student check-in so parents and staff don’t need to share pens and devices. Brightwheel includes fully touchless digital check-in that is approved for licensing, including capturing parent signatures.
2. Conduct daily health checks
One of the most important things you can do to keep your students and staff safe is to check temperatures and symptoms every day.
- At drop-off time, wear a mask and conduct a health check on each child before their parent leaves. Ask about fever, cough, and trouble breathing within the last 24 hours.
- Anyone with a fever of 100.4° or above or other signs of illness should not be admitted to the facility.
- Staff should check their temperatures and any possible COVID-19 symptoms at home before coming to work.
- If a child or staff member becomes ill during the day with fever (100.4 degrees or higher), dry cough, and/or shortness of breath, isolate them and notify their family to pick them up right away. You may apply a mask to staff and children over two years old. Always supervise ill children.
- If you use brightwheel, you can easily track and record each student’s health conditions, including logging a student's temperature, posting a photo, and adding notes. You can choose whether to share this information directly with families in the brightwheel app.
3. Set up social distancing measures
Social distancing may not come naturally to curious, energetic children, but you can build in new policies that keep the spread of germs to a minimum.
- Small, stable groups reduce the risk of spreading illness. Sort children into small groups that stay together with the same teacher throughout the day. Children from the same family should be in the same group wherever possible.
- Adjust your schedule so that children stay in the same classroom with the same staff members during the day.
- Open windows safely for fresh air and ventilate the facility before and after children arrive.
- Mark designated seating spots on the floor with tape so children understand where to sit. Place cots and cribs 6 feet apart, if possible, with children facing head to toe at naptime.
- Encourage outdoor play so children get fresh air and physical activity. Stagger indoor and outdoor play and adjust schedules to reduce the number of children in the same area. Brightwheel’s scheduling tool allows you to easily manage staggered schedules for students and staff.
4. Clean and disinfect frequently
To eliminate the spread of germs, it’s important to wash hands and sanitize surfaces and equipment multiple times throughout the day. While many childcare centers were meticulous about cleanliness before COVID-19, it’s now more critical than ever!
- Wash hands frequently. Have children and staff wash their hands upon entering the facility and frequently thereafter. Either warm or cold water is fine, and either bar soap or liquid soap is fine. The soap does not have to be antibacterial. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitizer (60% or more alcohol) when soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty. Keep hand sanitizer out of children’s reach.
- A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available here.
- For cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, diluted household bleach solutions (at least 1,000ppm sodium hypochlorite) can be used if appropriate for the surface. Prepare a bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. If using a bleach solution, wait until children have gone home, and open the windows for ventilation to avoid lung irritation.
- Toys that cannot be cleaned and sanitized should not be used. Machine washable cloth toys should be used by one individual at a time or should not be used at all. These toys should be laundered before being used by another child.
- Routinely clean, sanitize, and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched, especially toys and games. This may also include cleaning objects and surfaces that are not ordinarily cleaned daily, such as:
- Light switches
- Classroom sink handles
- Nap pads
- Toilet training potties
- Desks, chairs, cubbies
- Playground structures
5. Adjust meal time procedures
For centers that serve meals, take care to avoid crowding around the table and minimize sharing of food, dishes, and utensils.
- Make sure children and staff wash their hands before and after they eat.
- Eliminate family-style eating during the pandemic, and wear gloves when serving food to children. Serve food on individual plates for each child.
- Use disposable plates and utensils when possible.
- Seat children at the table with more distance between them than usual (six feet, if possible).
- Stop tooth brushing during child care hours. Encourage parents to regularly brush children’s teeth at home.
- Food preparation should not be done by the same staff who diaper children. Sinks used for food preparation should not be used for any other purposes.
For additional health and safety information, we highly recommend visiting the CDC website. The CDC has fantastic, easy-to-understand resources for childcare centers and preschools, including printable posters, ideas for communicating with families, and checklists for safe reopening.
Brightwheel is here to help your center stay safe and clean during COVID-19. Many states are recommending going as paperless as possible to prevent the transmission of illness. From student check-in to daily activity logs to collecting tuition payments, using digital tools instead of pen and paper can keep your center clean and safe. With brightwheel, your center can move away from pen and paper to check students in and out, record daily health checks, accept paperless tuition payments, and more.
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 www.mybrightwheel.com.