ECE Directors to Congregations: We are struggling
As we face extraordinary challenges in our schools, we asked early childhood center directors to share what they want the lay leaders and temple professional staff to know about running a preschool during a pandemic. Directors are working diligently to maintain high-quality programs and need help and support. As advocates for the future of our early childhood centers, we need the strength of the congregation to carry us through this difficult year - and beyond.
This is what a few of our directors had to say, slightly edited for clarity:
- “I'm struggling with staffing. There is the lack of qualified teachers willing to work with young children during a pandemic. Most of my staff is at risk (due to age or medical conditions) and my classes will not be able to run for the winter. These teachers have been with me for decades and they have children, spouses, or their own health concerns--and they do not want to be exposed to the kids indoors."
- “The number of hats we currently wear is numerous and are continuing to grow. We have become therapists for parents and teachers, COVID management experts, nurses, teacher counselors and cheerleaders. We have become experts in security, maintenance, AV, reception and logistics. We maintain balance between oversight and being hands off. Somehow, we manage to get all that done in a typical workday. It is stressful and hard but worth every second for every smile and laugh I hear from the children. I will do my job.”
- “I want the lay leaders to know how much more we could be offering to our congregants in terms of connection. Even in a year that forbids us to sing or meet in person, we can create a dynamic atmosphere and connect on such a personal level. I wish our lay leaders could make personal connections to staff and parents, maybe with a handwritten note or phone call. THEY NEED IT!”
- “Our leadership and lay leaders have the perception that our program is fine after hearing that other congregations are closed. They tell us, ‘We are so proud of your work and are glad that we are not in a crisis like many other programs are.’ Their confidence and gratitude is much appreciated, though I did remind them that our enrollment is down, that we needed to cancel a class because we do not have the staffing, that I am working 6-7 days a week since March, and that we are operating very much in the red on our budget"
- “I carry an enormous burden of responsibility as I endeavor to keep myself and my family, my teachers and their families, and our students AND their families safe. I worry constantly that our families are not sustaining the commitment of our partnership, and that they might be participating in unsafe activities – even though this is an unsaid yet understood essential agreement that they (and we) won’t do so."
- “I appreciate the dedication of EVERYONE in this building, from the custodians to the administrator, as they respect our need to keep our school safe, and even up to our board president who has expressed full support and confidence in my ability to do this. And my hope is that one day soon, perhaps I will again sleep, without the weight of this world on my shoulders.”
- "I am having a difficult time finding the joy in my job. I have been working in preschools for 35+ years and I truly wish I could retire. I miss the hugs. I miss hearing the laughter. I miss going into classrooms. I miss supporting teachers in the classroom. I miss seeing parents on campus. I miss the connections. Now, I must take temperatures, ask medical questions, and keep a distance from all children after I check them in each day. I did not sign up for working 24/7. I am in Zoom meetings daily. I’m writing COVID protocols. Finding staff now is nearly impossible and my sleep is disturbed. I do not know how to turn it off. Work has consumed my days and invaded my nights. There was nothing that could have prepared me for this. Yes, I am struggling.”