BY MARGUERITE TREMELIN- Boca Grande’s littlest learners have returned to preschool.The pre-kindergarten 4 and 5-year-olds returned on June 16, followed by the 1 to 3-year old children on July 7. Children, teachers and parents are happy to be back.
It was three months ago, on March 16, when the Boca Grande Preschool closed its doors following COVID-19 safety edicts from Gov. Ron DeSantis and Catholic Charities. The preschool’s board of directors committed to keeping teachers on the payroll, and releasing parents from tuition commitments while the preschool was closed.
For Boca Grande Preschool Director Kimi Harms and the preschool board, getting ready to re-open was the first order of business. Teachers and assistants used this time productively to complete online education and certifications. They also provided important input on developing new procedures essential to operating in a pandemic.
With the children away, the preschool accomplished a major goal funded by generous donors at the Boca Grande Preschool Beach Ball in early March – a comprehensive new security system to keep the children, their families and the preschool staff safe. Harms and the teachers were on hand to see the Stanley Security Company install state-of-the-art technology, including cameras, door entry systems, direct links with fire and police departments, and more.
“We are committed to implementing as soon as we can the many programs funded by our wonderful community friends,” said Angela Steffan, Boca Grande Preschool board president. “What a thrill to have the multi-faceted security system in place when our little ones returned.”
The Boca Grande Preschool executive board met remotely over ZOOM in early May committing to immediate action on reopening strategies. Harms closely monitored CDC guidelines and was in regular contact with the Florida Department of Families & Children and the Boca Grande Health Clinic, with a goal to be ready for the earliest possible opening.
Board members and staff have expressed their appreciation to the Boca Grande Health Clinic for offering antibody testing to the teachers.
Board Member Jeff Swift and Harms set to work updating and creating new policies to meet COVID-19 challenges.
To that end, the Boca Grande Preschool will soon have a new washer/dryer and dishwasher for sanitizing cups, bedding, and other items.
Harms reported, “We also have medical-grade thermometers, new healthcare-type uniforms for the staff, and plenty of face masks and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). To minimize sharing of germs, we purchased and organized individual baskets of washable toys for each child.”
On reopening day, an enthusiastic, health focused, welcome awaited the children. Now, each child is greeted outside with a quick temperature scan, and says goodbye to moms and dads before entering the school.
Only children and staff are permitted inside for now, and temperatures are taken several times a day in an effort to stay ahead of new infections.
At left, Stanley Security outside the Boca Grande Preschool installing the new security system. Above, the staff at the preschool geared up and ready to go. They include Donna James, Wendy Kelly, Breonne Daugherty and Jackie Eby. Photos provided