Indiana State University Newsroom



Caring for the little ones during a pandemic

November 12, 2020

Since reopening in May following a six-week closure due to the pandemic, the Early Childhood Education Center at Indiana State University reports no cases of COVID-19 despite providing direct care for over 60 children each day. Its director attributes this to the effectiveness of the university's reopening plans and the safety measures practiced by ECEC staff.

"Multiple safety measures were implemented in order to protect ECEC staff and the children they are serving," Director Holly Curtsinger said. "ECEC staff worked with the University's Risk Management department to develop a Pandemic Safety Protocol prior to reopening. The safety protocol addressed everything from drop off to meal service to playground visits."

Curtsinger said drop off and pick up is managed by a staff member wearing PPE. That person checks the temperatures of children and conducts a verbal health assessment with parents before allowing them to be admitted. Parents have not entered ECEC facilities since reopening.

The children are typically fed family style to prepare them for independent mealtimes in K-5 settings, and to reinforce the social support associated with a family meal structure, Curtsinger said, but meals are currently being served on disposable paper goods to minimize the potential for cross contamination between children and kitchen staff.

Staff interact with the children while wearing a mask. "Staff have made numerous adjustments to their classrooms," Curtsinger said, "reconfiguring furniture and center layouts to promote social distancing."
"Nap time charts have also been reconfigured to support social distancing, and children are placed head to toe to sleep to minimize prolonged face to face contact."

Curtsinger says ECEC staff is meeting the challenges brought on by the pandemic head-on - rocking and comforting children daily. "So many aspects of high quality care are not pandemic friendly," she said. "These are stressful times, and now, more than ever, young children need to feel safe, welcome and cared for. Their sense of attachment to a primary caregiver creates feelings of well being and diminishes negative behaviors and other traditional stress responses."

The pandemic has brought financial difficulties to the childcare industry this year. Unemployment and work from home opportunities caused a decline in enrollment particularly in infant care.

At ECEC, the waitlist for infant care is minimal, in stark contrast to the situation pre- pandemic, when the infant waitlist consistently hovered in the 15-20 range, Curtsinger said. The preschool center is faring better, with overall enrollment at over 90% of licensed capacity.

The Indiana State University Early Childhood Education Center, an affiliate of the Bayh College of Education, provides high quality childcare services for children from 6 weeks to 5 years of age. The program is rated level 4 on Paths to Quality, the highest rating in Indiana's voluntary rating system for childcare facilities. It is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The program offers priority placement for families of ISU students, staff, and faculty, and also provides placement opportunities for non-affiliated community members. The ECEC is a host site for On My Way Pre-K, and accepts CCDF [Child Care Development Fund] vouchers.

The facility was inspected by the state under pandemic operating conditions, and both facilities maintained their level 4 ratings on Paths to Quality. The program is currently accepting applications. Interested families are encouraged to call 812-237-2547 for more information.

Story Highlights

Since reopening in May following a six-week closure due to the pandemic, the Early Childhood Education Center at Indiana State University reports no cases of COVID-19 despite providing direct care for over 60 children each day.

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