Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has deeply impacted Early Head Start programs throughout the country. In spite of these unprecedented times, United Way of Acadiana Early Head Start has remained committed to serving the needs of our children and families in Lafayette and Vermilion parishes.
On March 13, 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards signed a proclamation closing all public schools in the State of Louisiana. For the safety of our children, staff and families, we closed both of our Centers and immediately began to strategize regarding how we could continue to support our children and families during the closures.
CORONAVIRUS PLAN OF ACTION
Our team developed a Plan of Action that was innovative and strategic and it leveraged the great partnerships we had established with our parents throughout the year. We created tools that would allow learning to continue at home. We identified resources to educate our parents on the pandemic and how to remain safe and healthy and most importantly, we remained in contact with our children and parents on a daily basis to provide educational support, but also, mental and emotional support. Here is the plan:
- Daily touchpoints are conducted by our teaching staff with our parents. Through these daily calls, we ask the following:
- Has the coronavirus impacted you or members of your family? Are you ok?
- Were you able to pick up your weekly supply of food? Did you have any problems obtaining transportation during the designated pickup time?
- Is anyone in your household exhibiting signs or symptoms associated with the virus?
- Through conversation, we determine if there are currently any unmet needs.
- We encourage parents to follow us on Facebook or UWA social media. We advised that this is the tool that we would utilize to share important information during this pandemic.
Information obtained from the questions asked and through conversations and interactions during the daily touchpoint are logged in MyHeadStart daily by staff.
To address food insecurity that our families would face, we partnered with Trio Community Meals, our food service provider to determine a safe way that we could continue to provide healthy, much needed meals to our children. Beginning March 23, 2020, we began providing both Center-based and Home-based children with one (1) week’s worth of frozen, pre-packaged meals to include breakfast, snack and lunch. Each week, we continue to provide food to our children and families and will do so throughout this pandemic. Through our Grab and Go model, food distribution is conducted in a safe and effective manner. We practice social distancing and other recommended safe practices.
To further enhance the teacher/child and parent experience during the daily touchpoint, we have designed a Weekly Lesson Plan to be utilized during the call. This is a great opportunity for further interaction between teacher/child or parent/child. We utilize technology, including Facetime, that allows our children to hear their teacher’s voice and/or see her face. The Lesson Plans provide easy, effective engagement opportunities that allow learning and development to continue within the home.
As part of our Grab and Go food distribution process, we include Educational Information for our families. Informational bags include a weekly EHS Newsletter, Weekly Lesson Plan, a Health Informational Flyer and other available resources. We have even included supplies needed to complete activities in the lesson plan and books to help build home libraries!
All staff must participate in a weekly team conference call led by the Center Director or VP of Early Head Start. We discuss how we are impacted by the virus, we obtain updates on our families, discuss needs and available resources and brainstorm new strategies moving forward. The well-being of our staff remains a priority for our program as we understand that our team may also be impacted by this pandemic.
EDUCATIONAL TOOLS AND RESOURCES
Here are samples of our weekly EHS Newsletters, Lesson Plans, Health Informational Flyers and other available resources shared with our families.
- Week 1: Newsletter, Lesson 1, Health 1, Flyers
- Week 2: Newsletter, Lesson 2, Health 2, Tummy Time, SAMHSA
- Week 3: Newsletter, Lesson 3, Health 3, Flyers, Spanish Information
- Week 4: Newsletter, Lesson 4, Health 4, Tele Mental Health Flyer, Sitting/Turning/Reaching
- Week 5: Newsletter, Lesson 5, Health 5, COVID-19 Comic Book, Other Resources
- Week 6: Newsletter, Lesson 6, Health 6, Coronavirus Time Capsule, Food Pyramind Resource, Other Resources
- Week 7: Newsletter, Lesson 7, Health 7, Arts Activity, Other Resource 1, Other Resource 2
- Week 8: Newsletter, Lesson 8, Health 8, Stress Management
- Week 9: Newsletter, Lesson 9, Health 9, Other Resource 1, Other Resource 2
- Week 10: Newsletter, Lesson 10, Health 10, Other Resource
We also shared resources via social media. Here are some samples:
- Facebook: Announcement 1, Announcement 2, Announcement 3
- Storytime videos: The Wheels on the Bus, Just Dog, Bear Hugs, Pete the Cat, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, My Mom, Summer
- Video lessons: Colors and Shapes, Exercise, Color and Number of the Month
- Shared resources from Acadiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (AVOAD): Food Distribution Announcement, Symptoms of COVID-19