Staff Communication

Promoting Friendships and Early Learning


I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy and safe.  It’s a crazy time we are living in.  This email is going to be quite long, but please take time to read it carefully.
I wanted to write and provide you with as much information as I have and attempt to give you context for the decisions we have made thus far and the decisions we have to make in the future.  I also want to make sure you have a continual line of communication with me.  Thank you to those of you who have reached out to me via phone and email with questions or concerns you have.  I want to again encourage all of you to give me a call at 334-332-5094 if you do have anything you feel like you need to discuss with me.  That said, here’s an update as of 04.05.20.
At my recommendation, the Board of Director’s voted to extend our closure until AT LEAST April 13th.  As we continued to look at the constantly changing situation, the decision was made that it’s in everyone’s best interest to remain closed at this time, but we have decided to take it one week at a time from here forward, RATHER than an indefinite date to reopen.  I think this is wise.  I want to make sure our families do not feel left in the dark.  
Some points on FAMILIES:

  1. Late last week, our admin team split up the list of center-based families and made phone calls to each of them.  The purpose of this was to check in and see how they are doing, as well as find out how they are feeling about potentially coming back to VIP Tots once we open.  A few notes on what we found out:
    1. Our families are doing well physically.  No one indicated at that time that anyone in their home was sick with the virus or was believe to possibly have been exposed to the virus.
      1. We did have one Home Program family who had a child that was tested for the virus, but thankfully that test returned negative.
    2. A good number of our families are out of work and are at home with their children. 
    3. We asked each family if they were in an “essential service” line of work AND/OR if they were in need of childcare at the moment.
    4. We followed that question with whether or not they would bring their child(ren) back to preschool at this time.
      1. Out of the 120+ families we contacted, 35 (at that time) indicated that they needed childcare and would be comfortable bring their child back due to the current situation.
    5. At that time we indicated that our plan was to remain closed until April 6th, with the possibility that it may be extended, which it was.
  2. On Thursday of this week I sent a text message to each family who has a cell phone on file, as well as an email through the KidReports App indicating that a decision had been made to extend the closure until AT LEAST April 13th.  That messaging was also posted to our Facebook page as well as the main page of our website.
    1. In the communication sent out I shared with families that at this point we are going to take closure decisions week to week, and that they would be notified by Thursday each week whether or not we intend to open the following week (for example, this week we notified them Thursday that we would be closed for the week of April 6th – April 11th). 
    2. Beginning Monday the 6th, I will be working with the admin team to reassess where families are at and seek to gain a clearer picture on what their needs are as far as future schedule for their children.
  3. I want all of you to know that I understand this is a difficult time for our families and that a decision to remain closed:
    1. Is frustrating to some.
    2. Is a relief to others.
      1. I’ve given up attempting to make a decision that is going to accommodate or please everyone.  Because it’s not going to happen.  🙂  I’d encourage all of you to join me in taking that approach in this season and work to release control and relax.  That’s been my daily mantra.  And it really does help more times than it doesn’t.  

Next up, continuing to keep the center closed.
Some points on CLOSURE:

  1. Under the CURRENT order from the County Health Officer, all childcare providers and day cares (outside of the County and Local School District) are classified as “essential services” and therefore are able to continue to remain operational.
    1. The rationale for this is a desire to ensure that families who are still required to report to work at an “essential service” business have consistent access to childcare if needed.
      1. My personal belief is that they never really thought through this.  I believe what they really were attempting with this was to allow FAMILY and IN HOME daycare providers to remain operational.  What they forgot is that there are dozens of large non-profit and private based providers who ARE NOT daycares, but are now in a really tough situation as a result of this decision (more on this later).
        1. And just so we are clear on this point, what we do is not merely childcare or daycare (though from an insurance standpoint this is how we are classified).  We are a preschool that seeks to educate through creative and play-based curriculum.  I’ll be the first to admit that there are areas we can and do need to grow in, but we ARE, and should strive every day to continue to be fundamentally different than what a small in home provider does.  And please know that I am not opposed at all to in-home family providers.  My youngest son went to one for 2 plus years.  But my point is that we have resources both fiscal and personnel wise that small family day cares do not have, and therefore we have a significantly larger population of children in our care as a result, and further, we have a greater responsibility to utilize those resources to the best of our ability.  
    2. In order to remain operational, the County Health Officer has issued new regulations that (in this season) govern the manner in which a provider may continue to operate during this pandemic.  The regulations are as follows:
      1. Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of 12 or fewer (stable means that the same individuals are in the same group each day).
      2. Children shall not change from one group to another.
      3. If more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room.  Groups shall not mix with each other.
      4. Childcare providers shall remain solely with one group of children.
    3. Now, as you can imagine, this creates MASSIVE issues on a lot of levels; space and staffing, just to mention a couple.
      1. It means that we have only 8 available classrooms now, as the entire front building becomes one classroom instead of 4.
      2. It means that our numbers in each room would be a max of 10 children.
        1. And those 10 children stay in the same room with the same staff every day for the entire day.
        2. Which means that the classroom setup and groups that we had on March 13th are not going to be the same.
      3. It means that in order to run one classroom, regardless of size, we need two staff members (because no outside admin or teacher from another room can come in and break or give lunches).
      4. In order to serve 80 kids in 8 rooms  we would need 16 dedicated teaching staff in 8 rooms.  This does not include the constant cleaning and sanitizing that will need to be done.
        1. If you’ve been out to Target and noticed the way they are cleaning each check stand after one use, this is essentially the protocol that would go in to place for us for restrooms, etc.  
      5. Now, as I indicated before, right now we feel like we have around 3 dozen families that would be bringing their children back, but we don’t know what schedule yet, etc.  We are working now to gather that information so that when we open we have an idea of what we need in terms of staffing.
  2. Why are we still closed?
    1. At this point, all of our programs are being reimbursed regardless of whether our doors are open or not (with the exception of our private pay families).  That has allowed us to stay closed, pay all staff, and wait and see how this situation has unfolded.  I am extremely grateful that we have been able to do that.  I also think it was wise to do so and am grateful the Board of Directors was supportive of that recommendation.
    2. It is my belief that the longer we are able to stay closed the more time we have for a more clear picture of how the virus is going to spread in our community and thereby allow us to make critical decisions about the future.  The longer we stay closed, the longer we keep our children, their families, and ourselves out of the risk of contracting the virus.
  3. Why are we going to reopen?
    1. First and foremost, we have families in our community that need childcare.  Many of them work in essential lines of work and therefore rely on us, as they did before, to provide that service.  We want to be wise about a timeline to reopen and clear about what reopening will look like, but at the end of the day, we exist to serve a need that is fairly significant at this point.
    2. It is quite likely that within the coming days the Department of Ed is going to issue decisions on how long centers can stay closed and retain funding.  That will be a determining factor for a lot of centers on when to open.  
      1. As I said before about families, I say again now about staff.  The decision to open is going to resonate with some, and not with others. I’m sorry for that.  
      2. Honestly, I have questions about what operating a childcare center in this season looks like.  However, I believe that if we follow the regulations and guidelines that are already published and many more that are coming, we can create an environment that is safe and sanitary for everyone involved.  We will not be able to complete eliminate the risk of someone coming to us sick, but we can greatly reduce it if we all work together.

In all of this, I am perhaps most concerned about each of you.  From day one of my time at VIP Tots I have sought to protect our staff and make conditions better for you.  We’ve been able to do this in several ways over the last few years I have been around.  However, it is not lost on me that you (as well as I) will be coming to work in an environment that is different than the world we knew one month ago.  I don’t say that to alarm you.  The reality is that anywhere outside of your home is a risk right now.
Some points on STAFF:  

  1. As an employee of VIP Tots, your health and well-being are my primary concern.
  2. If you are not comfortable coming to work given all that is at play right now, you will not be made to do so.  If you have concerns about this, I need you to call me personally so we can talk through it.  I cannot make any guarantees about what that would look like right now, but we need to have a conversation if you are concerned about coming back to work.
    1. Some of you may have situations that fall in line with the FFCRA (Families First Corona Virus Response Act).  I sent out that notice earlier in the week and I hope you had a chance to read through it.  If you have a situation that falls into one of those categories I need to talk with you as soon as possible.
  3. Before anyone returns to work you have my word that all of the resources that are needed in order to make your work environment as safe as possible will be in place.  This includes an arrangement for face coverings or masks for you to wear, as a recent order over the weekend now mandates you wear one when you leave home.  From the practical such as disinfectant, to the logistical such as classroom set up, etc. you will have what you need or our doors won’t open.
    1. I have attached a couple of documents to this email that highlight some of the practical as well as logistical arrangements we will need to implement.  I would love to hear from you if you have additional suggestions.
    2. Additionally, everyone will undergo training to insure that we all understand our responsibilities in what will be a new work environment.  

Please know how grateful I am for each and every one of you.  I appreciate your patience with me as I continue to navigate this new world we are living in.  I hope to have more information in the coming days about what the future schedule will look like.  As soon as I have that I will be in touch with you.  Thanks for taking the time to read through this communication.  If you have questions please call me at the number mentioned previously.

All the best,

Jared Dobbins
Executive Director