Lorraine Valles, who has worked in YWCA childcare for almost 30 years, told herself not to stress out when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit and businesses began to shut down.
As the education program director for the Rogers Early Childhood Development program at the Central YWCA — that never closed amid the coronavirus outbreak — the responsibility of taking care of children of essential workers and making sure they are safe from the virus certainly has taken a toll.
“Parents are so grateful and so at first, I told myself not to stress about this. But I started noticing when I would get home from work that I would feel more drained even with less children,” Valles said. “It’s stressful because you’re taking care of children that belong to essential workers and you are exposing each other to risk when you receive these children, holding them and taking them to their classrooms.”
Valles relocated to the Central YWCA two months ago from the University of Texas at El Paso Early Learning Academy when YWCA officials decided to consolidate seven of its daycares into four centers mid-March.
With the opening of more businesses Friday, officials with the YWCA said they are ready to take more children at its four locations.
“For the past two months, only children of essential workers could attend childcare,” said Sylvia Acosta chief executive officer of the YWCA, in a press release. “Now, with businesses and other organizations reopening, more and more people will require childcare. YWCA is proud to offer these vital programs that will keep children active and learning in a safe environment.”
The daycare at 1600 N. Brown St. lost some children at first when their parents were laid off or had to stay at home. As the pandemic continued, the enrollment numbers began to increase.
The daycare has consistently been filled with about 60 children, from infants to 12-year-olds.
Three months into the global pandemic, days for these children, their parents and their caregivers are very different. Temperatures are taken for anyone who enters the facility and all must wear a mask covering their face and nose.
Parents have had to adapt to signing in and out outside of the facility and ringing the doorbell when they arrive. The number of children in each classroom is limited to observe social distancing guidelines and hand washing is a frequent activity.
Among the hardest adjustment for new parents is not being able to walk their children to their classroom.
“Most of the parents have been very grateful that we have stayed open and providing childcare in a safe environment,” Valles said. “But we just enrolled some new parents this past week and it’s been stressful for them as well.
“Because of the rules we are following, parents are not allowed to come inside and view their classrooms and where their children are spending their day,” she said. “It does put a little bit of stress. For one parent, I told her, ‘I will take pictures of your child’ and so I took pictures of just the child with the teacher and at different angles so she could see where her child was spending their day.”
Cleanliness and disinfecting have certainly been heightened dramatically. Anything that can’t be wiped with sanitizing wipes, such as cloth toys, were removed from classrooms. Other toys are removed throughout the day after being played with to be sanitized. Staffers can not sanitize rooms while children are in them.
Tables were added to space children out, with only a few at each table. And both children and adults wear masks.
Older children seem to understand what their new normal is and why.
“Some children refuse to wear their masks and you have to deal with that. And the younger ones like toddlers, don’t really have much of an idea of what’s going on.
More openings amid COVID-19: No more bad hair days! Hair salons and barber shops reopen amid coronavirus
“But for the most part, I think, they come and enjoy themselves. They’re doing art and going outside and doing manipulatives and follow a schedule so they are not just sitting,” she said.
Officials said being open since the pandemic first started pushed them to quickly learn and adapt to new sanitary rules for the health of everyone involved.
“YWCA programs have been open throughout the pandemic, so our staff is well-versed in health and safety measures,” said Diana Hastings, YWCA Senior Programs Administrator in a news release. “We will continue following CDC, state, city, and all other guidelines regarding social distancing, reduced ratios, masks, and more to provide as safe an environment as possible.”
YWCA Summer Care programs
The YWCA will offer two Summer Care programs starting June 1 aside from offering care at the four daycare facilities:
- Rogers Early Childhood Development, 1600 N. Brown St.
- Escobar Early Learning Academy, 115 N. Davis Drive.
- El Paso Community College Valle Verde, 919 Hunter Drive.
- The Mabee Early Learning Academy, 10712 Sam Snead Drive.
Officials said there are no longer restrictions on who can participate in childcare or camps.
The YWCA will have an indoor summer camp for ages 4-12 at 10712 Sam Snead Dr. weekly from June 1-Aug. 21 and an outdoor camp for ages 6-12 at 4400 Boy Scout Lane weekly from June 1-Aug. 7.
For more information and enrolling in the camps, visit ywcaelpaso.org.
More: Elementary teachers pack up classrooms after school year ends abruptly due to COVID-19
Stay up-to-date on everything related to entertainment, restaurants and trending stories. Subscribe here.
María Cortés González may be reached at 915-546-6150; firstname.lastname@example.org; @EPTMaria on Twitter.