April 7, 2020
I hope this finds each of you in our St. Michael’s community safe and well today. I am reaching out with an update on how St. Michael’s has been responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
Since the outbreak of the virus in Delaware, we have been experiencing many of the same emotions as you – anxiety and concern over how to best navigate the unknown. In the face of the unknown, however, there was one guiding truth that we did know – the safety of our children, families and staff was our utmost priority.
Three weeks ago, I made the decision that St. Michael’s would follow the state’s K-12 school closings rather than remain open as was originally mandated. I have always followed the safety guidelines set out for children whether it be weather-related, a serious health crisis or other external threat. While I completely understand the concern for businesses and the economy to stay financially stable, my responsibility is for the children, families, and staff directly in my care.
On March 16, I started meeting (remotely!) with a small group of early childhood colleagues, as we all recognized that a strategic communication plan was needed that spoke to the daily realities of child care – as they are by no means “controlled environments”. St. Michael’s, as with all larger centers, has many more adults walking through our lobby, down the hallways, and visiting in our classrooms than K-12 schools. This happens at least twice a day. Our little ones may try, but aiming for those elbows when coughing is a challenge. The list goes on. Simply put, group care is not the place for children in these uncertain times.
What my colleagues and I had been advocating for weeks finally went into effect yesterday, April 6th. Only approved Emergency Centers caring for the children of “essential personnel” will stay open. St. Michael’s board and leadership did consider applying for Emergency Center status. We would have only opened classrooms with direct access via doors to the outside. We weighed concerns such as how to ensure the ongoing safety of everyone involved and how to provide the correct supplies (supplies that hospitals are having difficulty procuring). The more we talked, the more it appeared that the number of slots needed would likely be less than anticipated while the liability and responsibility on our center would be much greater.
St. Michael’s has entered into an agreement with the Department of Education and the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families in which we will receive partial funding and in return, continue to retain and pay our staff throughout this state of emergency. However, this funding does not cover all of our ongoing operational expenses. So, we will continue to work with our local banks, funders and individual supporters to have our doors ready to open when this crisis has abated. I am very grateful to our Board of Directors who have unanimously endorsed these plans. They continue to work tirelessly with me and our administrators so that we remain true to our mission of keeping Wilmington’s youngest children safe and protected.
As we continue to move through this unprecedented time, there is no doubt we are all in this together. In the coming weeks, we will continue to remain transparent and communicate with you how St. Michael’s is doing as well as share some ways you can help right from where you are. Remember, you can follow us any time on our Facebook page. And please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns at email@example.com.
I remain, as always, thankful for the strength and resiliency of the St. Michael’s community. Please be safe, take care of yourselves and stay connected with us.
My best to each of you,