In a recent survey sent to early childhood centers concerning the effects of the pandemic on the profession, the last question was: “What one word would you use to describe the status of your center today?” My almost immediate answer was “healing”.
I do think it is an accurate descriptive. We continue to have quarantines but definitely farther apart and still only isolated cases. The vast majority of our staff is vaccinated, and we continue to very dutifully follow the guidelines set for early childhood—masks, detailed cleaning, distancing when children are eating and napping, and not combining classrooms at the beginning or end of the day. The last two affect our enrollment and health of the institution the most as we are at 65% of what our February 2020 population was. In addition to COVID restrictions and recommendations still in place, the entire early childhood profession is seriously understaffed. While I am very grateful to our loyal and hardworking staff, we have been unable to hire enough new staff to our pre-pandemic level and have a lovely infant room unused as a result.
However, we are healing—families are returning with children who are considerably taller than a year ago, our staff with school age children are making plans for the next school year, and we are preparing to say good-bye to 14 beautiful children as they move onto to kindergarten in September. We celebrated that milestone in June with a Moving Up ceremony, and while the audience was very limited, seated 6 feet apart and outside, the children set the mood by dancing in to the Happy song. Healing is certainly expedited by the presence of children!
I realized as we were preparing for the ceremony that this group of children is my first baby class. Five years ago when I arrived at St. Michael’s, five of these children were beginning their experience here as well. Those five years have been so incredibly full for all of us. While the years look much better on them than me, I am very grateful to be here and continue to feel that this is where I am meant to be. I was so struck by the rich history when I first interviewed for this position, and to have been part of the second pandemic during which St. Michael’s has cared for Wilmington’s youngest is an honor.
Wishing our extended family of supporters, a happy, healthy, and healing summer!
Lucinda Ross, M.Ed.