With the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Children’s Center planning to resume operations on June 15 amid the coronavirus pandemic, precautions and preparations have been put in place to ensure the physical and psychological safety of the children.
The UNL Children’s Center provides UNL faculty, staff and students and the Lincoln community full-time care for children aged 6 weeks to 5 years old, according to the center’s website.
In May, the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska released a list of guidelines that child care centers who were considering re-opening, such as the UNL Children’s Center, could use to guide their pandemic policies. Susan Sarver, director of workforce planning and development at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, said the precautions and preparations will give children a safe place to go while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Sarver said the main concern for any child care facility is that children are physically and psychologically safe. Sarver said with the COVID-19 pandemic, children are not only at risk of infection but are also at risk for psychological issues like anxiety.
“This is a time of trauma for everyone,” Sarver said. “For young children, it can be really scary, and when young children are anxious and stressed, they [often] act out.”
Sarver said talking openly with kids about real-world problems in a context they can understand can be beneficial to help decrease feelings of stress or anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the Black Lives Matter protests, can be difficult discussions to have, especially with children, but it’s important for children to understand so they are less frightened, according to Sarver.
Payton Chmelka, a sophomore elementary education and special education major and student-teacher for preschoolers, said in an email that child care services allow children to have a routine and parents to not worry about their children while at work.
Parents having their children at a child care center while they work is one less thing they have to worry about during a pandemic, Sarver said.
“It’s really important to have a safe place for their kids to go when they go to work,” Sarver said.
All staff members are required to wear a mask at all times and must wash their hands more often, Chmelka said. Also, staff members are keeping each child’s belongings individualized, which means each child will have their own section of the room to keep their things as a way to reduce the spread of germs.
Although the UNL Children’s Center’s day-to-day operations will be different, Chmelka said she’s ready to go back to work and to help give the children a sense of normalcy.
“I am so excited to get back to work,” she said in an email. “I miss seeing the kids every day and interacting with my amazing coworkers. I can’t wait to hear how our kids have been.”
This article was modified at 9:57 a.m. on Friday, June 12, 2020, to correct Susan Sarver’s title and to clarify the Buffett Institute’s guidelines are open for use by any child care centers planning to reopen.