We love helping all types of early childhood programs. But most often when we think of the type of child care program that ALL parents want, we think of high-quality education, pristine environments, and only the best of the best in supplies for the kiddos. Unfortunately in lower income areas these types of things are not always easy to pull off.
Providing a child care center for a low-income community can be an amazing and rewarding experience. Your center helps families feel safe, stable, and know that their children are receiving a quality education.
However, it can also be challenging. Communities with lower socioeconomic statuses have taken the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may have noticed a drop in enrollment as parents struggle to find the funds or worry about their child’s safety.
Urban settings tend to have lower-income students. Parents and students have to worry about safe transportation, gun violence, and now Coronavirus. Ensuring a safe space has never been more important or at the forefront of concern. Meeting CDC requirements may pose a difficult challenge financially, and finding a safe space at home for virtual learning might not always be possible for students. Here are a few ways to make your in-person classrooms safer and to help make students feel safer at home. Parents will feel more at ease and choose your education facility for their children.
Ways to Make In-Person Classrooms Safer for All Ages
- Follow CDC guidelines. If your school is short on funds, reach out to your community for help. Parents will respect that you are taking the initiative in continuing to provide quality care while keeping their children safe. Create a list of items needed and encourage donations. When you help your community, they will not hesitate to help you in return. Here is a starter list of items to ensure you are meeting CDC guidelines:
Hand sanitizer and surface disinfectants
Monetary donations to ensure every student has their own reading materials and learning resources
Monetary donations for desk shields
Monetary donations to ensure that every child has their own nap-time cot for the year
Classroom items such as markers, scissors, pens, pencils, glue, erasers, dry erase markers, notebooks, etc. to minimize sharing
- Make a game out of it. Getting children to follow directions can be difficult in normal circumstances, but the pressure is even greater when our safety depends on their complete compliance. In most countries, children are not used to wearing a mask, some children have sensory issues, and proper hygiene isn’t always enforced in the home as strictly as it should be. Below are three suggestions to help your staff make following the rules more fun. Parents will love your center’s creative approach and they may even notice a positive improvement in their children’s behavior and compliance at home!
- Provide Incentives: Suggest that your teachers create a sticker chart for preschool and school age children to encourage students to wear their masks all day without having to be reminded. Those that wear their masks all day without having to be reminded for an entire week receive a reward. If the whole class is compliant, then the class will receive an additional reward. The reward does not have to be expensive or materialistic. Students can make the Weekly Star Student Bulletin Board and have the opportunity to be the center of attention by sharing something with the whole class. Entire classroom incentives may include additional storytime at the end of the week or participating in an activity of their choosing. Incentives not only make it easier on teachers but it provides a great opportunity to facilitate responsibility, self-choice, and understanding positive consequences.
- Make learning proper hygiene fun! In addition to frequently using hand sanitizer, have your teachers set up classroom times where students are required to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water. Your staff can take students in groups so every available bathroom sink is occupied by one student without violating social distancing regulations (you may suggest that teachers take their class all at once and have students line up outside of the bathroom six feet apart while waiting their turn) and play a portion of their classrooms favorite song for thirty seconds while children wash their hands. The ‘music washing station’ is a fun way to allow students to take a break from academics and move around a little.
- Use fun social distancing markers. Encourage staff to decorate their classrooms and halls with fun-themed social distancing floor markers. Students will love to stand on their favorite animal, superhero, or emoji! You can even do this for tables and chairs by making every table a different theme and putting a sticker on the seats of chairs designed to stay unoccupied.
Ways to Make Virtual Learning Safer For School Age Children
- Create a safe space at home for school age children. Take your classroom atmosphere virtual and make it a requirement that students during the school day are to have a safe and uninterrupted environment. By eliminating fears and distractions, students will feel at ease and maintain a sense of normalcy. Speak with parents, send out newsletters, and encourage teachers to be present during their school day. Require students and teachers to share their cameras so teachers can see their students’ surroundings. An instructor’s presence will make it much more likely that parents will comply with giving their children a safe space free of distractions to learning. Kindly ask that students mute their mic when they are not speaking to allow for a conducive learning experience. Parents who work during the day will appreciate that their children have an extra set of eyes on them, ensuring their safety and productivity.
- Get to know the caregivers at home.You can require a legal age child care provider to be present in the household. Host a virtual meet and greet at the beginning of the school year with parent-teacher conferences quarterly. Encourage those looking after the students during the day to wave a quick ‘hello’ before classes begin so your teachers know there is a trusted adult present. Inform your staff to seek out resources and familiarize themselves with your center’s policy on reporting things that seem amiss. Students are more susceptible to abuse and unsafe environments when they are not at school; your center must be taking every precaution to ensure safety and report unsafe situations.
- Provide virtual after school clubs. Children may worry that after the school day has ended that their safety is once again in jeopardy. One cost-effective way to make them more comfortable is to hire community volunteers for educational credit or internship incentives. High school and college students studying education, childhood psychology, or even English, will find the value in helping their community and gaining experience. After school reading programs, art lessons, etc. are all great ways to engage students, continue the fun, and provide safety. Much like classroom guidelines, virtual face to face interaction can be mandatory. Face to face virtual tutoring programs are also great ways of promoting learning and safety.
2. Incentives for Parent Participation
Parents need to see the value in choosing your school or beginning their child’s educational journey sooner than planned. Incentives can include programs, discounts, superior education, or providing an environment built on similar household values. Most parents would like to be involved in their children’s educational lives from infancy forward. Financial constraints, caring for other children, and career responsibilities often make it difficult for caretakers to participate in school activities. Providing incentives, opportunities, and flexibility to engage with families can be what separates your school from another. Here are three ways to engage with parents:
- Parenting Programs. Most parents and guardians would like to be involved in their children’s education. Financial constraints, caring for other children, and career responsibilities often make it difficult for caretakers to participate in school activities. Providing incentives, opportunities, and flexibility to engage guardians can be what separates your school from another. Here are three ways to implement parenting programs:
- Financial incentive: This is a great way to incentivize turnout for parent-teacher conferences. Studies show that involvement increases significantly when parents are given financial incentives. Parents who schedule and attend a 15-30 minute parent-teacher phone conference will earn five to ten dollars. Opportunities for families to earn additional income can include perfect attendance, volunteering during lessons (virtual or in-person), and participating in after-school programs.
- Parenting Groups. This idea can be combined with financial incentives or paired with a community social media board. Single parents, parents of students with disabilities, or low-income families might feel overwhelmed and isolated. Providing programs and resources is a great way to promote involvement and help give parents an outlet to connect with other families going through similar situations. Schedule virtual meetings or encourage communication through social media groups and foster lasting relationships within your school community.
- Make Way for Books: Make Way for Books is a free program serving lower-income communities in the Tucson, Arizona area. Fortunately, Make Way for Books has taken its organization globally through the Make Way for Books app. Their app contains hundreds of children’s books and begins by allowing parents to pick between English, Spanish, and bilingual mode. Each digital book contains compelling stories, learning opportunities, and activities that the child and guardian can do together. You can take this opportunity a step forward by implementing your community engagement events around Make Way for Books. Host a mommy and me reading event where parents and children can read books allowed and collaborate during the in book activities. This event can be hosted in-person or online. Make Way for Books is always looking for talented writers and illustrators to submit their stories and illustrations.
3. Calls to Action
In the world of marketing, we understand the importance of customer interaction. Prospective families will feel more involved and listen to what you have to offer when they are engaging with your organization. The key is to involve people and make them feel as if they are already a part of your educational family. Engagement includes creating a space on social media for guardians and prospective families to communicate, creating a landing page on your website where individuals can sign up for your newsletter, providing a clickable link or video, or encouraging your community to take action and become involved. Language is important when promoting CTA’s. Stick to verbs such as ‘click,’ ‘join,’ ‘get started,’ ‘learn more,’ etc.
Now you are ready to use your newfound marketing tools to increase enrollment in your lower-income community!