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Friday
June 05th, 2020

kcsl logoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

Not long after the COVID-19 pandemic started, it was announced all school buildings in Kansas were going to be shut down for the remainder of the academic year.

Kansas Children’s Service League’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs were also closed at that time. This Tuesday, Mary Martha Good, director of both programs, hopes the Early Head Start, which is for children ages birth to 3 years old, will be able to reopen as part of Governor Laura Kelly’s “Ad Astra” plan to reopen Kansas.

Good said KCSL, though, is taking steps to make sure the spread of coronavirus is limited.

“We’ll ask the parents every morning a series of questions,” she said. “We’ll take the children’s temperature. Nothing will be allowed into the center. I think we need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that way. At the end of the day, we will take their temperature again, give it to the parents. I think it’s going to go really well. If everything goes well, we will start summer school Monday, June 1. That would be for children going into kindergarten or children who have IEP (individualized education program). That’s not for sure yet. We’re hoping and keeping our fingers crossed on that one.”

Good said like many other aspects of life, the pandemic has been hard on those at KCSL.

“My heart hurts for those kids out there,” she said. “When we hear of lack of food in the homes, parents who are out of work because they have no child care, that really drives our message that we need to be open.”

The Early Head Start program runs throughout the year, but the Head Start program geared toward children ages 4 and 5 only runs during the regular school year. Good said having that program run year-round as well is a goal, however.

Good said KCSL has been using porch visits and dropoffs, as well as similar measures to those employed in public schools to keep children engaged while they are away from school.

“We try and remain at least six feet apart,” she said. “We’ll let the parents know we’re coming by with a homework packet, something easy, fun to do with their child. We ask them to fill out a little report on their child, how they did the activity, and mail it back to us. We enclose a self-addressed envelope. We call our parents once a week, sometimes twice a week. We don’t want to be a pest, but we are worried and concerned. We want to make sure everyone in the house is doing well.”

Good said KCSL is also finding other means to help parents keep their kids engaged.

“We’re using more Tik Tok, shorter videos to send out to kids,” she said. “We’ve had some really cute ones. We’ve got a great group of creative teachers.”

Good said the effects of COVID-19 have also taken a toll on the parents themselves.

“I would say in the last two weeks, we’ve seen more of a decline of parents answering the phones,” she said. “I think they’re worn. I know many are trying to work two jobs now to help out with kids. We worry about what the kids are doing at home when Mom and Dad are at work. We’re anxious to get our feet back on the ground running.”

Like other educators, Good said she and other KSCL staff are more than ready to get back to educating students.

“We’ve got hand sanitizer,” she said. “We’ve got wipes. We’ve got about everything. Our PPE (personal protective equipment) masks have not come in, so we have goggles, a face mask, plastic gloves whenever we greet the child at the door to take their temperature. We’ve got to get these kids back. We really do. It’s time.”

Good said while they have products to help cut the spread of coronavirus, more would gladly be accepted.

“Anybody who would love to send us funds for hand sanitizing gel or wipes, we would gladly accept,” she said.

Good said agency staff, like others, have been very scared, yet very aware of what has been going on with COVID-19.

“I think everyone has become a very responsible citizen in wearing face masks, keeping clean, sanitizing when they enter the office, sanitizing when they leave,” she said. “I think we’re all cognizant of the risk factors and want everyone to abide by them.”

So moving forward, helping with the opening of its summer school, Good said KCSL is being offered a one-time grant.

“We should know next week if we’ll be able to open up our doors to all children who are enrolled in our Head Start program who are beginning kindergarten August of 2020,” she said. “We have about 110 children in our three locations – Ulysses, Liberal and Garden City.”

Good said KCSL is prepared to take on the task of taking care of the children it serves with both Head Start and Early Head Start.

“We serve many, many kids in all these counties out here in Southwest Kansas,” she said. “We’re nearing the mark of 450. We’re ready to serve these children and families again.”

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