By Liz Lopez
With a plan in place, the child development & family studies (CDEV) department is prepared and eager to safely re-open their childcare center doors but there are multiple factors to take into consideration before that happens. A rather complex system of approvals is needed and they await word from the Department of Public Health, the Mayor’s Office, the California Department of Education, and the City College Return to Campus (R2C) Task Force.
Childcare Center Closures Affect Community on Many Levels
CDEV Department Chair Rosario Villasana said, “This is the first time in 40 years of providing childcare to the students that we have not been able to open. So that’s a very big loss to the community.” She says that COVID-19 has been a big challenge for the department. Faculty and staff had to learn to provide parent support remotely and there are parents who don’t have internet service, computers, or even the technical skills needed in order to adequately access the programs.
The childcare center closure affects children, parents, students, and teachers in a myriad of ways. Not only have parents lost a valuable resource for childcare, but students working towards a certificate in the program, as well as educators working towards an advanced license have also lost the opportunity to gain critical experience working at these licensed childcare facilities.
“I think what is happening to kids in general right now — not just in preschool, not just in child development centers — [is that] it’s going to be a hardship for these kids to come back to create their ‘new normal’,” said Melissa Serrano, the site coordinator of the Ocean Campus Lab School preschool program. “The amount of learning and socialization skills that are going to be lost is really something to be concerned about.”
Childcare Options Are Limited
The department has one preschool program at the Mission Campus and both a preschool and toddler program at the Ocean Campus. Parents need to qualify, based on their income status, every two years for these programs. The department has lost almost half their student childcare registration due to the closure.
“A lot of parents are still scared to send kids to programs,” said Akiyo Mineo-Aldis, an intake clerk for the CDEV department. “I just spoke with one family that they’re happy with the remote learning because they don’t feel safe to send kids to childcare centers or preschool programs, and some parents request remote only. Some parents need a physical program so they find another place or they are just waiting.”
“There are other options but all programs are running at limited capacity because those are the guidelines from the Department of Public Health . . . Most classrooms are being capped at 12 students and so there is definitely not enough childcare out there to meet the needs of families,” noted Serrano.
Communication During COVID-19
CDEV Site Faculty Coordinator Norma Villazana-Price recalled, “During the year we typically would have a family meeting once a month, where we talk about all kinds of topics: nutrition, community resources, all kinds of things. In the spring, when we had family meetings using zoom, the kids spent all their time waving at their friends and just wanting to talk…that connection of being around each other, seeing each other is really lost, unfortunately. It’s not the same using zoom. It’s not at all the same. ”
“Childcare centers also function sort of as a hub, so a lot of times parents develop relationships and feel comfortable with the staff at the childcare centers,” added Villasana. She said that parents sometimes need help finding jobs, apartment rentals, or access to resources regarding legal issues and they may not ask for the help online. When children are attending in-person lab school the staff may notice if the child has a learning disability and if they might need a referral for IEP (Individualized Education Plan) She notes that without the in-person interaction much can go unnoticed; parents just don’t seem to feel as comfortable on a zoom call as they do talking to a trusted staff member, in-person, at the center.
Domestic abuse resources, mental health consultants and information on where to find legal advice are just a few critical resources the department provides. Parents can apply for CDEV 8101, which is a parenting class affiliated with the childcare center, through the non-credit online application system. Anyone can enroll in the online class — even parents who aren’t income-eligible to get information on basic child development and to take advantage of the creative online preschool programs designed to keep kids moving and engaged.
Dr. Irma Romero, the faculty program coordinator for the Family Resource Center (FRC) at the Mission Campus, recognizes how difficult and complex these pandemic times have been and said, “I want to take the opportunity to offer a space of hope to the parent-students here at CCSF…our FRC continues to offer the expected support .”
Contacts for Student Parents
Mineo-Aldis is available to help students who have questions about the remote lab school program or are having difficulty scheduling CDEV classes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Irma Romero is accessible to student parents who would like to help finding solutions to their current issues or to discuss any concerns they may have. She can be reached at email@example.com and is available for virtual meetings via zoom.