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Draper Journal

Juan Diego daycare teachers welcome back students after teaching them online

Jul 06, 2020 10:38AM ● By Julie Slama

During the school’s soft closure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Guardian Angel Daycare on the Juan Diego Catholic High campus provided support and instruction for their students, but this summer it is slowly reopening for in-student instruction. (Photo courtesy of Juan Diego Catholic High School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This summer, the Guardian Angel Daycare at Juan Diego Catholic High campus has a different look.

After spending months preparing and delivering lessons, stories and activities families could do together to support their youngsters at home in the spring during the COVID-19 soft closure of school, teachers are welcoming currently enrolled children.

The welcome-back rollout was expected to begin in mid-June with infants to children age 2, each age being separated into small groups and placed in their own rooms. By the end of July, the pre-K 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds are expected to join the daycare. 

“We’re bringing back classes slowly, re-evaluating our safety precautions from cleaning to drop off and pick up, making sure we’re meeting all standards and being as careful as we can,” said Juan Diego daycare co-director Jody Kearney who shares the position with Vanessa Morales. “Our staff will be wearing masks, but we’re making it optional for the children.”

To ease the transition back to the classroom, children are being placed with the same instructors as the spring. In August, the students will transition to the next level.

“We felt it was very important to place students with the teachers they have a relationship with and have had support during this time. Many families and community have had a big attachment to our team, and we’ve supported the families with early childhood development curriculum and a sense of routine and structure for their children,” she said.

Through online meetings, teachers have read stories with puppets using several voices, searched for ways to reinforce lessons such as driving to videotape a brown horse to tie into a lesson about color and farm animals, and have provided creative, interactive opportunities such as through dance, songs and crafts to enhance student-engaged learning.

“We have parents thanking us because their older siblings have online homework and their younger children wanted to do something as well,” Kearney said. “It’s a real challenge for this age. We’re so used to face-to-face interaction. Early Childhood Development is not intended to be done over the computer.”

After the lessons were delivered on Monday, the teachers checked in mid-week with students and parents with ideas on how to build upon the themes.

“We encouraged them to do the activities at home and help students become successful. At this age, it’s important that they’re learning socially and emotionally. They learn how to interact, problem-solve, communicate, learn how to be a friend. When they develop these skills, it builds their confidence and that translates into their academic learning. Then, their ABCs and 123s fall right into place,” Kearney said.

All 24 Guardian Angel Daycare teachers have or are in the process of earning their early childhood development degrees. Two of the teachers have taught since the childhood center opened 20 years ago.

“In some ways, this summer will be a great opportunity for these children to explore. It will mostly be us on the campus so we’ll have enough space and can take advantage of having adventures anywhere,” she said.

The staff will continue to follow guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, county and state health departments, including washing hands, sanitizing items and conducting temperature checks. If the agencies allow school to remain open in the fall, there will be some openings for new students at the Guardian Angel Daycare, Kearney said.