By Airman Amanda Lovelace | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The Schriever Child Development Center reopened its doors May 4 after a near two month closure due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The center plans to phase in the services offered as Schriever moves through Phase 2 of its recovery plan.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact [on the CDC’s normal operations],” said Jennifer Clare, 50th Force Support Squadron director of the CDC. “We re-opened for care with regular hours, but a limited number of children. This is partly due to movement limitations, but also because I have more than 10 staff members out on medical leave until Phase 3 [of the base recovery plan]. And several, including myself, had e-learners at home.”
Since returning, CDC staff increased the already stringent cleaning, sanitizing and sick leave policies. They also conduct wellness checks prior to allowing access to the building, which include taking temperatures and checking the overall well-being of each person entering the facility.
Additionally, staff went through each classroom and removed items that are not easily sanitized, and they’re limiting the number of personnel entering and exiting classrooms. Classes of the same age group no longer combine throughout the day, and meals are now served to the children directly from the teachers instead of using the previous self-serve, family-style method.
“The most challenging change for us is requiring masks of all adults when they are in the building,” said Stacy Compton, 50th FSS child and youth programs flight chief. “Wearing a mask, while necessary, makes it more difficult to communicate with children. Children with emerging language skills take a lot of cues about the people around them from their facial expressions. Our staff have risen to the challenges, though, and each day find ways to make our children feel welcomed, safe and nurtured.”
While the staff is providing the best care possible and easing into the transition, closing down the facility wasn’t easy.
“There were so many unknowns about the virus and its impact,” Compton said. “Closing the facility was difficult. We knew it would impact the families we served, as well as ourselves. We faced the challenge of taking care of our staff during that time. We wanted to make sure our staff and their families were weathering this storm.”
Some fears of COVID-19 were realized as paying staff members proved to be a challenge, due to the limited number of children in the facility. However, a team of CDC staff found a solution.
“I do not want anyone to go hungry or have their livelihood affected,” Clare said. “We created a training program that will provide extra hours by increasing job skills for those who would like to increase their paychecks.”
In order to make up COVID-19 restriction-related lost hours, staff members can complete online webinars and training via certified and approved websites. After the training is completed, staff members answer questions and explain how what was covered can be applied in real world situations.
So far, the training has covered a gamut of topics, including behaviorism, classroom management in a digital age, helping children cope with COVID-19, time management and professionalism, among others.
“We worked to mitigate the impact as much as we could while protecting our families, children, and staff,” Compton said. “We offered assistance in obtaining alternate care where we could. We checked in on each other regularly to make sure those who needed extra support were receiving it.”
The process might’ve been challenging for some, but the CDC staff and 50th FSS planned and worked around the clock to ensure this transition would go as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.
“We have been planning and strategizing since early April, so returning was not a last minute process,” Clare said. “I am grateful every day to be a part of such an amazing team within the CDC and within 50th FSS. Every base is handling COVID-19 as best they can, but I am proud to be among those who show they truly care about all of their personnel.”