Some parts of the preschool experience never change. A young child’s excitement about starting something new and having the chance to meet new friends is an enduring reality as families send their young learners off to their first classrooms.
The Sauk Rapids-Rice Early Childhood preschool programs have now been in session for several days. And while young learners and their families are experiencing the same feelings and routines at the start of preschool as others have before them, they are also experiencing essential differences. The programs have adopted brand new protocols and a focus on keeping everyone safe and healthy.
Both the Hillside and Rice programs are using as much space as possible and spreading out learning environments to ensure that staff and students are mindful of social distancing. Classrooms are modified to give everyone maximum space and to allow them to keep distancing in mind. Extra furniture and items, along with soft articles—aside from carpet—are also gone. Classroom surfaces are cleaned thoroughly and frequently throughout the day.
In addition to maximizing space and other changes, the programs have addressed the number of people in any building area through procedural changes. Classrooms are utilizing “pods” this year— smaller groups of students who stay together throughout the day and move to play and work areas as a group. A color-coding system is also in place at Hillside so that groups use hallways, the gym and play areas on a staggered schedule without encountering other groups at the same time. Families are learning new, one-way drop-off and pick-up procedures. These staff-assisted procedures and staff-only access to buildings limit exposure to those outside of the programs.
District staff must wear masks, undergo temperature checks upon entrance to buildings and follow established safety measures. Increased cleaning and disinfecting steps for the facilities and all classroom items are in place.
Finally, hygiene practices like frequent, thorough handwashing and age-appropriate lessons about maintaining healthy personal space have always been a part of early childhood learning. However, this year, these practices and lessons take center stage and are a critical part of the preschool experience.
The Sauk Rapids-Rice School District is excited to provide Hillside and Rice Early Childhood programming at this time. Early childhood staff has enjoyed helping students transition and settle in during the past few days. As always, we hope our youngest learners have a year full of happy and healthy growth.
Thank you for helping us make the first days of preschool and ECFE programming Storm Strong and successful!