Child development centers at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden have implemented safety measures as they provide care to the children of mission-critical personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDCs reopened June 15 for limited cases, those who don’t have the ability to telework and single or dual military families.
“This is a new environment,” said Rashunda Clement, coordinator, Child and Youth Services. “So it’s really important for us to provide for and maintain the safety of children while providing quality of care and keeping staff safe.”
In order to do that, staff implemented a number of procedures to reduce the possibility of anyone getting sick.
Hand washing stations are set up outside every facility. Children are screened and have their temperatures taken, and parents are asked questions each morning at drop off. Anyone showing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 is not allowed to enter.
After children wash their hands, staff, who wear face coverings, escort the children into the building. Parents must remain outside.
Deep cleaning was done before reopening to ensure the environment could be disinfected easily and frequently.
“We had to remove all of the soft toys; anything that was not easy to clean or launder,” Clement said. “We removed carpets, soft pillows. We reduced the number of toys. One, because class sizes are much smaller, but two because the more things you have out, the more things children can touch and need to be disinfected.”
They also doubled the staff in each classroom. Now, one person cares for the children and a second person is responsible for cleaning the room throughout the day, she said. After a child handles a toy, the cleaning person removes it and disinfects it.
Smaller class sizes allow for more distance between each child and fewer children being exposed to one another. For example, a classroom with three infants now has one caregiver and one cleaner.
In addition, the CDCs still have contractors who come in to clean and disinfect the facilities.
Another safety measure the CDCs take is requiring that caregivers remain with the same groups of kids every day in the same classroom. If a staff member is out sick or on leave, another staff member is brought in, but then they can’t go into another classroom for 24 hours, Clement said.
At the School Age Center, the children also remain with the same staff member the entire day and even eat lunch together, she said. Buffet and family-style dining has been stopped. Now, staff prepare meals away from the table and serve them to each child individually.
Children are spending more time outside and can even bring books that would normally stay inside, she said. Hand sanitizers have been placed at all of the playgrounds.
“We encourage lots of time outside so children can get that fresh air — basically take the classroom outside,” Clement said.
As things evolve, any changes will be made deliberately and with safety in mind, she said, while stressing the importance of staff and parents feeling confident about the procedures and children and staff being safe and healthy.
“We want to do it slowly, and we want to do it right,” she said. “It’s important we re-establish routines as we invite new children into the program as we go back to full capacity.”