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Guest Opinion: Early education is essential

Students sit on taped markers to keep a safe distance from one another at HeadsUp Child Development Center in Palo Alto on April 30. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Now is the time to support our local early education and child care providers.

It is predicted that by year-end, more than 50% of the nation's early education child care providers will close permanently. A year from now, fewer than half of those that initially survived will likely remain.

Families are already struggling, and children are losing out on essential learning and socialization opportunities. Child care and early education are essential needs in our community.

As long-standing early education and child care providers in the Palo Alto community, we see firsthand the effects that the pandemic is having on the youngest segment of our population. From one day to the next, thousands of children lost connection with their teachers and peers in our community. Parents have shared how much their children missed their friends and teachers and struggled to understand why they were suddenly unable to be with them.

Young children need to be around other children, not only to develop critical socialization and self-regulation skills, but to revel in the joy of playing and learning with other children. We know from abundant research how important peer connection is to the development of children. This connection is even more profound for children who are learning English for the first time. In a normal school year, a social, play-based environment can advance language acquisition in as little as one year. Without these interactions, children lose valuable time in preparing for elementary school.

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We are deeply concerned about the future of early education and child care programs. Child care already operates on a tenuous business model that pits the true cost for providing quality care against the realities of what families can afford. Significantly increased costs for protective equipment and cleaning supplies now required due to the pandemic, combined with reduced enrollment capacity requirements of up to75%, are pushing this tenuous model to the breaking point.

Janet Vanides, top, and Lisa Rock, bottom. Courtesy photos.

There are many early education and child care programs in Palo Alto, both small and large — the pandemic has created feelings of isolation and uncertainty about how each should respond. The Palo Alto Advisory Committee on Early Care and Education (PAAC-ECE) is hosting biweekly Zoom meetings to discuss the challenges local early education and child care providers face and how to meet them. Local providers are helping each other navigate the ever-changing local, state and federal mandates and recommendations while providing support and guidance to one another.

Many programs tried to adapt early on in the pandemic by providing some type of distance learning and online connection with children and families, but children need direct, personal contact with their teachers and their peers. Families need and deserve safe learning environments for their children while they work. Early education and after-school programs give parents peace of mind and the flexibility that allows working families to thrive.

There are child care providers that have created effective responses to support families. Reopening programs for children required months of planning and the creation of new, complicated protocols and training. Small, stable social pods; daily health checks, symptom monitoring procedures, daily cleaning protocols; face masks and frequent, sustained hand washing — all are part of the rigorous steps required to create safe learning environments for children. For school-age child care programs, teachers also are supporting children 's distance learning.

Unfortunately it is not financially feasible to manage these additional costs combined with reduced enrollment and increased staffing costs. Programs are operating at a loss, temporarily closing or closing permanently. At some point in the future, this virus will be controlled and we will return to a new sense of normal. By that time, however, many schools will be shuttered and many talented teachers will be out of work.

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Early education and child care providers who have managed to reopen are essential workers providing critical services to other essential workers, supporting businesses by helping parents work and playing a vital role in children's development and well-being. Regardless of whether or not child care programs have been able to reopen, the critical need for child care remains, and we can all do something to help these vital services survive in the long run.

• Urge local, state and federal leaders to prioritize funding and support for child care before it is too late. Many child care providers and businesses serving children are nonprofit; ensure that nonprofit businesses have access to local relief funding.

• Send words of encouragement to teachers of children of all ages. Let them know you see their struggles, you appreciate their work and you are grateful for all they do.

• Make a donation to a local child care program you care about. Every dollar helps keep educators employed and much needed supplies within reach.

• Share your support for child care providers on social media. Remind friends and family that child care is part of the critical infrastructure that keeps other businesses operating effectively.

• Make personal choices that help stop the spread of COVID-19. Wear a mask, physically distance and limit your exposure to others as much as possible. Working together, we can get this pandemic under control and move more quickly toward recovery and repair.

We all have a role we can play supporting families and ensuring that child care and education programs survive these unprecedented times. This is a great opportunity for us to come together as a community to support children and families.

Janet Vanides is the director of Palo Alto Friends Nursery School and can be emailed at [email protected] Lisa Rock is the executive director of Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC) and can be emailed at [email protected].

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Guest Opinion: Early education is essential

by /

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 4, 2020, 7:01 am
Updated: Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 8:36 am

Now is the time to support our local early education and child care providers.

It is predicted that by year-end, more than 50% of the nation's early education child care providers will close permanently. A year from now, fewer than half of those that initially survived will likely remain.

Families are already struggling, and children are losing out on essential learning and socialization opportunities. Child care and early education are essential needs in our community.

As long-standing early education and child care providers in the Palo Alto community, we see firsthand the effects that the pandemic is having on the youngest segment of our population. From one day to the next, thousands of children lost connection with their teachers and peers in our community. Parents have shared how much their children missed their friends and teachers and struggled to understand why they were suddenly unable to be with them.

Young children need to be around other children, not only to develop critical socialization and self-regulation skills, but to revel in the joy of playing and learning with other children. We know from abundant research how important peer connection is to the development of children. This connection is even more profound for children who are learning English for the first time. In a normal school year, a social, play-based environment can advance language acquisition in as little as one year. Without these interactions, children lose valuable time in preparing for elementary school.

We are deeply concerned about the future of early education and child care programs. Child care already operates on a tenuous business model that pits the true cost for providing quality care against the realities of what families can afford. Significantly increased costs for protective equipment and cleaning supplies now required due to the pandemic, combined with reduced enrollment capacity requirements of up to75%, are pushing this tenuous model to the breaking point.

There are many early education and child care programs in Palo Alto, both small and large — the pandemic has created feelings of isolation and uncertainty about how each should respond. The Palo Alto Advisory Committee on Early Care and Education (PAAC-ECE) is hosting biweekly Zoom meetings to discuss the challenges local early education and child care providers face and how to meet them. Local providers are helping each other navigate the ever-changing local, state and federal mandates and recommendations while providing support and guidance to one another.

Many programs tried to adapt early on in the pandemic by providing some type of distance learning and online connection with children and families, but children need direct, personal contact with their teachers and their peers. Families need and deserve safe learning environments for their children while they work. Early education and after-school programs give parents peace of mind and the flexibility that allows working families to thrive.

There are child care providers that have created effective responses to support families. Reopening programs for children required months of planning and the creation of new, complicated protocols and training. Small, stable social pods; daily health checks, symptom monitoring procedures, daily cleaning protocols; face masks and frequent, sustained hand washing — all are part of the rigorous steps required to create safe learning environments for children. For school-age child care programs, teachers also are supporting children 's distance learning.

Unfortunately it is not financially feasible to manage these additional costs combined with reduced enrollment and increased staffing costs. Programs are operating at a loss, temporarily closing or closing permanently. At some point in the future, this virus will be controlled and we will return to a new sense of normal. By that time, however, many schools will be shuttered and many talented teachers will be out of work.

Early education and child care providers who have managed to reopen are essential workers providing critical services to other essential workers, supporting businesses by helping parents work and playing a vital role in children's development and well-being. Regardless of whether or not child care programs have been able to reopen, the critical need for child care remains, and we can all do something to help these vital services survive in the long run.

• Urge local, state and federal leaders to prioritize funding and support for child care before it is too late. Many child care providers and businesses serving children are nonprofit; ensure that nonprofit businesses have access to local relief funding.

• Send words of encouragement to teachers of children of all ages. Let them know you see their struggles, you appreciate their work and you are grateful for all they do.

• Make a donation to a local child care program you care about. Every dollar helps keep educators employed and much needed supplies within reach.

• Share your support for child care providers on social media. Remind friends and family that child care is part of the critical infrastructure that keeps other businesses operating effectively.

• Make personal choices that help stop the spread of COVID-19. Wear a mask, physically distance and limit your exposure to others as much as possible. Working together, we can get this pandemic under control and move more quickly toward recovery and repair.

We all have a role we can play supporting families and ensuring that child care and education programs survive these unprecedented times. This is a great opportunity for us to come together as a community to support children and families.

Janet Vanides is the director of Palo Alto Friends Nursery School and can be emailed at [email protected] Lisa Rock is the executive director of Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC) and can be emailed at [email protected].

Comments

Olivia Lau
Registered user
Downtown North
on Sep 4, 2020 at 10:29 am
Olivia Lau, Downtown North
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2020 at 10:29 am
28 people like this

Professional childcare in a safe, trusted environment is always essential, not just during the pandemic. In normal times, as a mother to two young children, childcare lets me have a career and maintain some sense of self. Even in regular years, childcare centers are continually in crisis, caught between the need to keep rates affordable versus the need to retain staff and pay a living wage in a high-cost area.

When the pandemic struck, we kept the kids at home for months, but having the yabber-jabbers in the house with two adults also WFH was driving me to exhaustion, anxiety, and despair. We did the research, talked endlessly, and made the difficult decision to send our kids back to childcare because licensed providers have strict requirements around group size, masks, and sanitization. The kids are much happier. They are adapting well to the masks and social distancing, and they universally think that it is better to see friends IRL with a mask than stay at home alone.

When the pandemic is over, we will need childcare more than ever. For workplaces to reopen, schools to resume, and the lives we have put on hiatus to restart, childcare centers MUST make it through.

Please support this essential industry.


It just makes sense
Registered user
Professorville
on Sep 4, 2020 at 12:30 pm
It just makes sense, Professorville
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2020 at 12:30 pm
21 people like this

Last January, before Covid, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics commented that "Shutting down all child daycare centers would have a similar impact to halting the Max [737] production line; it would mean a lot of people can’t get to work." (Web Link)

Whether you are directly affected by a lack of childcare or not, childcare is essential to our economic recovery and we must act to ensure that we don't lose this service in our community.


RS
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 4, 2020 at 1:01 pm
RS, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2020 at 1:01 pm
19 people like this

So many sectors of our community are being stretched to the limit by the pandemic. Child care is essential to the recovery of our economy. Every parent's ability to participate in the economy depends on child care in some form. We are fortunate to have very high quality programs that provide excellent environments in which our children can learn, love and thrive. These programs have grown and evolved over many years. We must make every effort to support them through this period as they struggle to survive so they can continue to support families in Palo Alto.


Claudia Bloom
Registered user
Downtown North
on Sep 5, 2020 at 7:12 am
Claudia Bloom, Downtown North
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 7:12 am
13 people like this

PACCC served us well when one of our children was of age to attend a day care. The teachers were very caring and we had a positive experience. Thank you PACCC community for continuing this service for parents!


Sharonkep
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 5, 2020 at 10:28 am
Sharonkep, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 10:28 am
15 people like this

I completely agree and support the message in this guest opinion piece. Child care is the linchpin for so many working families and critical to the development of young children. Please support child care programs in every way possible so that our community can continue to benefit by what they offer to families and children. My heartfelt thanks to all the child care staff who are working so hard right now in this very difficult environment.


Karen Friedland-Brown
Registered user
Mountain View
on Sep 5, 2020 at 3:53 pm
Karen Friedland-Brown , Mountain View
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 3:53 pm
11 people like this

As a long time parent educator in our community, I have observed on a daily basis the extraordinary gift of early childhood education for children. This is an essential service for children to become ready socially and cognitively for elementary school, and for parents to be able to support their families. We have been blessed to have PACCC in our community for close to half a century working hand in hand with PAUSD and the city of Palo Alto. And there are many other high quality programs that serve our families in our midst.Let’s all come together to ensure that these programs not only survive through the pandemic but continue to thrive in the years to come, as all of us benefit from early childhood education, even if we don’t have children or they are older and no longer in need of preschool.


juliemorrison
Registered user
another community
on Sep 6, 2020 at 3:11 pm
juliemorrison, another community
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 3:11 pm
9 people like this

The availability of childcare is fundamental to a thriving community. The prediction quoted in this article of 50% of early childcare centers closing by year end is terrifying. Now more than ever, childcare centers such as PACCC are of critical importance to get our families, community and economy back on its feet. Support local centers so they can continue to provide the childcare that is essential to surviving and rebounding from the pandemic.


Alanna O'Hea
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 8, 2020 at 10:11 am
Alanna O'Hea, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 10:11 am
4 people like this

Childcare is ESSENTIAL. It is essential in so many ways. It is essential to our economy and our economic recovery. It is essential to the social-emotional, cognitive and physical development of young children. It is essential to the mental health and wellness of families. It is ESSENTIAL.

Childcare centers need support now more than ever before. Support your local childcare center by enrolling your child. Many centers have openings. Childcare centers have strict protocols helping to limit the spread. Or, you can donate money. Some childcare centers are non-profits, so your donation can be tax deductible.


ElizabethG.
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 8, 2020 at 11:25 am
ElizabethG., Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 11:25 am
6 people like this

As being an Early Childcare Educator and a Parent I absolutely agree that early education is essential in many ways. As an Educator it allows me to have a job to help the economic recovery. Being employed in the field that I love I am able to help children become socially and cognitively ready for the years to come. As a parent I was blessed to have Covenant Children's Center to help rear my children. The teachers were very loving and supportive to my family needs. The teachers are very skilled and knowledgeable in their field. Childcare is essential and we all can do our part and help our local centers. It saddens me that some centers had to close or lay off staff due to the lack of enrollment. The centers are Covid compliance and the staff are diligent about cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing their schools. There may be a day after the pandemic when we decide we need their services and they will no longer be in existence. I would hate to see that happen. Childcare is essential!


Paul
Registered user
another community
on Sep 9, 2020 at 10:51 am
Paul, another community
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2020 at 10:51 am
10 people like this

For hard evidence about the individual and societal benefits of early childhood education, read about Nobel laureate economist James Heckman's work.
Here is an excerpt from a news story:

Early childhood education programs can impact life outcomes in ways that span generations, according to new research from Nobel laureate James Heckman. In a pair of companion papers released this week [2019], the pioneering University of Chicago economist found that the children of those who participated in a landmark 1960s study still saw improvements in education, health and employment. The children saw such benefits without participating in the same preschool program as their parents—suggesting that early education can contribute to lasting upward mobility and help break cycles of poverty.


Edna
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 10, 2020 at 9:13 am
Edna, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 10, 2020 at 9:13 am
4 people like this

As being an Early Childcare Educator and a Parent I absolutely agree that early education is essential in many ways. As an Educator it allows me to have a job to help the economic recovery. Being employed in the field that I love I am able to help children with their social-emotional, cognitive and physical and mental health. Childcare is essential!


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