WAYNE, NJ – What will school be like in the fall? The new normal is unknown, but whatever that normal turns out to be, it will be based on lessons learned. For New Jersey public schools some of these lessons will be learned this summer in day care centers and camps, and may determine if school doors open at all.
Day care centers for the children of essential workers have been opened throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Starting June 15, these facilities will be open for other parents. Though he states that "it's not the reason we are doing it," Murphy admits: “We’re going to learn an amount fairly quickly about what's working and what's not working as it relates to our wargaming back to school."
Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, Christine Norbut Beyer offered insight as to what she foresees going forward as day care centers reopen. The focus will be on establishing health and safety standards in accordance with the CDC and other health organizations. Resources for Licensed Childcare Providers are already posted on the Department’s website.
Standards put in place for day care centers and camps may well set the stage when it comes to reopening of schools. Among other things, parents have expressed concerns about social distancing and the requirements for children to wear masks.
“Right now, it’s not recommended as safe for child under the age of two to wear masks,” said Norbut Beyer, who acknowledged there may be issues with requiring toddlers to wear them.
While the CDC recommends that children over the age of two wear masks, Norbut Beyer says her department will be talking with childcare providers concerning youngsters who want to remove them while they are in their care. It is not recommended that little ones taking naps wear masks during their naps.
“We are concerned with staff touching them and replacing the masks, which could be riskier,” Nobert Beyer shared. “This may come down to individual children and whether they have the capacity to keep them on.”
Day Care Centers that plan to reopen need to let the Office of Licensing know file an attestation indicating that they will follow the safety protocols in place for New Jersey's childcare centers.
The Department also plans to send out inspectors to the centers that plan to open. Summer camps will also be exhibited to adhere to the same standards. Residential and sleepaway camps are prohibited from opening in the state.
According to Murphy, one of the benefits of summer camps and sports reopening gives kids the “opportunity to make memories.” He also cited mental health benefits, and an outlet for children who might be exposed to potential abuse at home.
It is simply hope right now that the doors of Wayne's fourteen public schools will be open come early September and distance learning will be a thing of the past. There are many questions that must be answered around hygiene, social distancing and masks, and the answer to some of these questions are likely to happen in our local day care centers. If these facilities can prove safe measures can be put in place and followed, then the hope of children returning to school this fall should turn into a reality.