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Reopening in a Pandemic: Early Learning Matters

Early educators have experienced tremendous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but their dedication to serving children and families has remained consistent. As they reopen their programs, early educators are finding innovative ways to adapt to a new normal. High quality early learning is happening safely with modified learning activities, new health and safety protocols, and fun, creative ways to build meaningful connections with children and their families. 

Part 1: Provider Ideas & Experiences


We asked family child care educators across San Francisco to share why they’ve decided to reopen their programs during the pandemic, and what their experiences have been so far.


Gloria Morales-Nova, Banana Fana Preschool

“[My program is] our main source of income and the reason why we can “afford” to live in SF, plus we wanted to help the families who need child care. To keep everyone safe, we do a temperature check upon arrival and spend 2.5 hours outside in the backyard. We have a hand wash station outside and clean toys twice a day, compared to once before. Our teachers are social distancing and wear masks in the program. We have single stations and more toys for individualized child play.”



Maria Elena Martinez, Elena’s Childcare

“The families needed to get back to work, and I took the big risk of reopening during COVID-19. I work with a mask, wash toys more often, and, above all, constant hand washing. I disinfect everything with soap and water and then disinfectant, take the temperature for all children and parents and workers, and ask questions of parents if they have been in contact with people who have been infected with COVID-19, and if so, follow the Health and Safety protocols. It’s been hard. I was used to having the kids around and hugging them every time they accomplished something, now everything is taught from afar without hugs, keeping the distance to prevent spread of the virus.”



Elena Ramirez, Happy Face Family Preschool

“Happy Face decided to reopen in April because there are so many families that needed to go back to work. Parents need to have peace of mind that their children are in a safe and learning environment. Most of the families we serve are not privileged enough to work from home or have the ability to not work. We added different strategies to have a safe environment during COVID-19. Parents are not allowed to enter the premises, each parent needs to clean their hands before signing in for their child. Each child needs a temperature check, and washes hands immediately. We removed our sand play area and created individual sand boxes for each child, plus we individualized everything inside the classroom. We still do circle time dividing children into small groups and use rules to make sure each child understands the concept of distancing and the importance of being separated. We talk to the children about how they feel, regarding the changes to make sure that they feel comfortable and protected.”



Esperanza Estrada, Estrada’s Family Preschool

“I decided to reopen my program for children and families because I believe that the children need to come back to their programs to interact and socialize with their peers, and also to keep learning, of course following all the CDC guidelines making sure that children and I will be safe. I also decided to reopen to survive economically through this pandemic. I reorganized the whole environment, reducing materials and toys to almost 50% to keep everyone safe and to be able to clean and disinfect them. I talk to the parents on a daily basis to check if everything is okay at home. I have adapted learning activities to allow kids to play on their own and change the materials on a weekly basis to keep the children’s interest. The most important thing has been to have an outdoor classroom, where the children can do/make anything they do indoor.” 



Veronica Duran, Peekaboo! Daycare

“Creo firmemente en que en estos tiempos tan difíciles debemos apoyarnos unos a otros, aunque desde que empezó la pandemia nunca cerré. Sigo trabajando por el bienestar de los niños y de uno mismo. Apoyar a mi comunidad es un privilegio y poder hacerlo también. [Nos] lavamos las manos en cada actividad, checamos la temperatura, mantenemos la distancia social y todos los protocolos correspondientes. Y también no dejar entrar a las instalaciones a los padres y mantener mucho cuidado. Tratar de usar los 6 pies de distancia, créeme que es lo más triste que he pasado. Tenemos guardados los peluches y todos los juguetes difíciles de limpiar.” 

Translation: “I firmly believe that in these difficult times we must support each other, and since the pandemic began I have never closed. I’m still working for the well-being of children and myself. Supporting my community is a privilege. [We] wash our hands before each activity, check temperatures, maintain social distance and all corresponding protocols. We don’t let parents into the premises and we are very careful. Trying to use the 6 feet away has been the saddest thing I’ve ever been through. We stored all the stuffed animals and the toys that are difficult to clean.”



Claudia Castillo, Mis Primeros Pasitos

“Porque mi filosofía es conseguir la felicidad de los más pequeños, creando para ellos un entorno educativo, seguro, donde pueda satisfacer las necesidades e intereses de cada  niño. Se que son tiempos difíciles para todos, pero son más difíciles para algunas familias de escasos recursos donde se ha visto en la necesidad de seguir trabajando para poder traer alimento y vivienda a sus niños. Una de mis familias llevaba a su hija para que la cuidaran hasta Oakland, a veces no lograba ir por ella por los horarios difíciles que tenía, cuando ella me llamó llorando desesperada porque su niña estaba más expuesta al virus por andar de un lugar a otro, eso me motivó a comenzar a trabajar desde el día 4 de mayo. Mi plan de acción actualizado donde he tomado todas las medidas necesarias, desde el protocolo para recibir a mis niños hasta los horarios de limpieza, medidas para la alimentación, y plan de emergencia. Antes de abrir mi programa, hice una reunión por Zoom donde les di a conocer todo mi plan de acción, las medidas que iba a tomar, les hice un álbum de fotos para que ellos vieran los cambios que hice en todos el entorno del programa. Las familias me aprobaron mis medidas y me apoyaron, eso me ha dado seguridad a mi, a mi familia y a los padres.”

Translation: “My philosophy is to achieve the happiness of the little ones, creating for them an educational environment, safe, where I can meet the needs and interests of each child. I know these are difficult times for everyone, but they are more difficult for some families who have fewer resources, who need to continue working to bring food and housing to their children. One of my families took her daughter to take care of her to Oakland. Sometimes she couldn’t pick her up because of her work schedule, when she called me crying because her little girl was more exposed to the virus, that motivated me to start work as of May 4. I updated an action plan where I have taken all necessary measures, from the protocol to receive my children to cleaning hours, feeding measures, and emergency plan. Before I opened my program, I did a meeting by Zoom where I released all my action plan, the actions I was going to take, I made them a photo album so that they could see the changes I made in the program environment. The families approved my measures and supported me, that has given me, my family, and the parents security.”



Norma Zavaleta, My Little Star Childcare

“Porque sentía que las familias necesitaban de mi para poder ayudarles a que ellas se motiven, que no todo está perdido y que no se sientan solas, que aquí estoy yo para apoyarlas y se sientan seguras de poder dejar a sus hijos y puedan trabajar o buscar trabajo para que puedan salir adelante. [Usamos] cubrebocas todo el día, mantenemos distancia, y tenemos materiales separados para cada niño. Hacemos actividades al aire libre la mayor parte posible. Mi yarda, la tuve que adaptar como si fuera un cuidado de niños afuera.”

Translation: “Because I felt that families needed me to be able to help them be motivated, to feel that not everything is lost, and not feel alone, that I am here to support them and feel confident to leave their children and be able to work or look for work so that they can get ahead. [We are] covering mouths all day, keeping distance, and we have separate materials for each child. We do outdoor activities as much as possible. My yard, I had to adapt it as if it were childcare outside.”



Yuaner Wang, FCC Program

“由于经济压力,我们的日托服务已于6月15日重新开放。 在结束期间,我要感谢OECE继续向ELS学生付款,并帮助我们在两个月内得以生存。 为了解决抵押,教师工资,日托费用,家庭生活费等费用的问题,我决定重新开放日托。 尽管有些父母不愿将孩子送回日托,但至少有一半的学生已经返回。 学生和员工每天要测量三遍体温。 我们增加了许多清洁和消毒工作,并与父母就流行病的发展,日托政策以及子女的情感发展进行了密切沟通。 我们正在学习新的教学方法,以便与孩子们保持良好的互动,同时保持社交距离,并设计更多有趣的小组活动。”

Translation: “Our day care has been reopened from June 15th because of economic pressure. During the closing period, I would like to thank OECE for continuing to pay ELS students and helping us to survive the two months. In order to solve the problem of mortgage, teacher salary, day care expenses, family living expenses and other expenses, I decided to reopen my day care. Although some parents are unwilling to send their children back to daycare, at least half of the students have returned. Students and employees take their body temperature three times a day. We have increased a lot of cleaning and disinfecting work, and communicate closely with parents about the development of the pandemic, the daycare policies, and the emotional development of their children. We are learning new teaching methods to interact with children well while maintaining social distance and to design more interesting group activities.” 



Siu Kam Cheung, Family Child Care

“(我们重新开业)照顾在大流行期间仍需要继续工作的父母的孩子,这样就可以照顾这些孩子,以便父母不必担心自己的孩子无人看管并让他们工作 有信心。”

Translation: “[We reopened] to take care of the children of parents who still need to continue working during the pandemic, and so that these children can be taken care of so that parents do not have to worry about their children being unattended and let them work with confidence.” 



Joann J. Y Liang, Flower Bud Preschool

“我必须工作以负担家庭生活的费用,支付贷款,保险和其他业务费用,保留员工的工作并向在职家庭提供托儿服务,以便父母可以工作以负担其家庭生活费用。 所有员工都戴口罩,手套和工作服。 我们制定了一项新的接送政策,允许父母在进入学校之前戴口罩,在门铃响起之前用消毒剂洗手。 我们讲一些关于为什么要戴口罩,关于COVID-19以及如何避免病毒的故事。 我们改变了彼此互动的方式,并使用手势和文字来表达赞美。”

Translation: “I have to work to support the expenses of family life, pay loans, insurance, and other business expenses, keep employees’ jobs, and provide childcare services to working families so that parents can work to support their family living expenses. All employees wear masks, gloves, and work clothes. We developed a new pick-up policy to allow parents to wear masks before entering the school, wash their hands with disinfectant before ringing the doorbell. We tell stories about why we wear masks, about COVID-19, and what we should do to avoid viruses. We have changed the way we interact with each other and use gestures and words to express praise.”

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