It has been almost eight months since our first COVID announcement; almost eight months since we were first required to cease operations under Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order. Times were uncertain and even more uncertain was the wonder “what would happen to childcare services?” At that time, many of our families began working from home, and didn’t need childcare upon our reopen. On May 1st, we reopened our doors to 27 children. This was an adequate number at that time seeing that seven staff members did not return with us, but it was still far from the 100 children we are able to serve. As worries stabilized, and health & safety guidance was released to employers, children began to return. However, at that time we, along with other childcare providers, faced a new dilemma: we were unable to recruit and retain staffing at the levels we once did. At the same time, employee qualification exceptions were made for federally funded programs, including public education providers, allowing them to attract employees who might typically apply to work in private childcare.
We were no longer receiving multiple applicants for each job posting; all the while our waitlist continued to grow- more families than ever were seeking care as parents were called back to work. While we are pleased to be able to continue to provide care in any capacity, it is important to note that we do so without the luxury of maintaining “business as usual.” We are currently providing care for 54 families (with more than 70 on our waitlist) but gone are the days when staff are able to commingle children (and themselves) for social interaction. Gone are the flexible schedules and ample time off for staff. To say our staff are resilient is an understatement! These are uncertain times indeed, but here is what we do know:
- Each person who chooses to show up and commit the greater part of their day to caring for and education our youngest citizens deserves accolades in normal times. To do so when days are long, the worry of a viral infection is real, and when every day is different, deserves the absolute most respect we can offer!
- We may unfortunately lose additional staff as a systematic result of our current times. In this scenario, we will continue to hire staff to fill open positions, and we will continue to seek the very best early educators our rural community has to offer!
- Now is the time to be kind. Kind to the people who care for your children, kind to the school administrators who go home worried about how it’s all going to come together each day and who make those hard and unpopular decisions, and certainly kind to strangers and each other, as we carry many of the same worries and stresses.
As part of a childcare coalition I belong to, I learned yesterday that 6 child care providers in Douglas County closed. That is 6 more providers who had to make the hard decision that there was NOT a light at the end of the tunnel and my heart goes out to them and the sadness I know they feel. We enter this field out of passion and a belief that we can make a difference in our communities and in the lives of the children we serve. Cobb as an organization is fortunate to be in a relatively stable place and we continue to create magic in each classroom every single day! Also, we know staffing will improve as the overall climate improves! In the meantime, we will continue to make decisions that allow us to continue to provide high quality care. When adjustments need to be made to the classroom setting, we appreciate your understanding that these times are difficult for all of us and your trust is greatly appreciated. We will take full advantage of all opportunities to keep children in the same classrooms, with the same friends whenever we are able, but know there may need to be temporary changes as we adjust to unforeseen circumstances in order to keep our current families enrolled.
I can also tell you with certainty that we are more committed than ever to continuing our emergent approach to early education and continuing to offer an experience that is unmatched in Southern Oregon. Being able to implement a research-backed and immersive experience for our students during the most difficult of times is a source of constant inspiration and joy for those of us within these walls. We unequivocally have the best and the brightest staff working with us, and we will continue that same high standard as we recruit going forward.
I will continue to provide operational updates as appropriate and in the spirit of open communication. Please do not hesitate to use BrightWheel to keep in communication with your child’s teacher on a daily basis! If you or your family have any questions about your child’s participation at Cobb, please reach out to Rica, our Director.
Let’s continue to be kind and support each other!