In March 2020, the Jewish Community Center’s Early Childhood program at the Benderson Building in Amherst had to temporarily shut down due to the pandemic. What was originally thought to be a two week closure turned into 2 ½ months.
However, the JCC was determined to find a safe solution to providing childcare and enrichment opportunities for children. So on June 1, 2020, the program re-opened with 23 children and a completely new set of cleaning procedures, as well as a new system for parents to safely drop off and pick up their children.
Nine months have passed since Early Childhood reopened its doors, the program currently has 102 children, and there are so many wonderful stories to share with the community. At the top of the list is major kudos to all of the staff. As of today, 63% of the team has been completely vaccinated or received their first shot. Early Childhood parent, Bethany Wood Harvey, has been instrumental in getting the teachers vaccination appointments. She has worked tirelessly with a local group of women physicians to navigate the appointment system and make sure that every teacher who wanted to be vaccinated got a shot.
In the classroom, teachers have completely changed their teaching models to accommodate COVID-19 protocols. The JCC Early Childhood NAEYC accredited program prides itself on a play-based learning model. They believe children learn best in a program that emphasizes creative expression through “hands-on” experiences while becoming confident, independent and respectful members of their classroom community. So in the era of COVID-19, when “hands-on” is a concept that is a challenge, the teachers have managed to create a safe classroom experience that continues to be Western New York’s premier early childhood center.
Toys have been removed that cannot be appropriately sanitized every day and replaced with generous donations from Temple Beth Zion’s PALS program and community members. Mini pods have been created in certain classrooms, using dividers in the room to reduce the spread of germs. The JCC installed a higher filtration system with UV lights throughout the entire building, essentially killing viruses that filtrate through the system. All classrooms now have electric brooms, ample wipes, shields and more supplies to aid in the cleaning effort, which was supported by income from three different grants. The Early Childhood program has also purchased two sanitizing sprayers and a UV light wand.
At the end of the day, it always comes back to the exceptional team work of the professionals who make Early Childhood at the JCC so great. Their dedication to caring for the tiny humans in our community went above and beyond their job descriptions. The stress and uncertainty of the pandemic was never put above the commitment to their important work. And while early childhood educators have always been exceptional, they rose to this challenge in a way that no one would have ever imagined.
Mazal Tov to every teacher and staff member of the JCC’s Early Childhood team.
*Registration is now open for the 2021-2022 year at the Getzville and Buffalo JCC locations. Click here to learn more about the programs.
Pictured L-R: Barbara Chazen, Maya Langberg, and Kirsten Braun – teachers in one of the 3 year old classrooms – proudly displaying their 2nd COVID vaccination documents!