May, 2020 Covid -19 Response and Programming Updates

Dear all,

The signs of spring look different this year in many parts of the country. Here in Madison, the Magnolia blooms grace the sidewalks, mittens are shelved, but our playgrounds remain silent. Despite our building closures, our spring traditions are alive, and we continue to offer educational programming and support to our families that face disproportionate hardships during the COVID-19 crisis.

For Reach Dane, the spring bustle typically includes staff planning End of Year Celebrations and Week of the Young Child (WOYC) alongside local community groups, food vendors, and parents. The preschool graduation is the first educational rite of passage, and this year our staff will honor our youngest graduates through virtual celebrations held in June. Our Annual All Staff meeting held in April is the only opportunity for every staff member to join in one room to discuss agency updates and Jen Bailey, our Executive Director, provides staff acknowledgements. We kicked off virtual acknowledgments with our 2020 Cohort Family Service Credentials. Twelve staff members completed over 50 hours of thought-provoking discussion groups and reflective assignments to deepen their attitudes of hope towards children and families . This cohort wrapped up in March, the day before the stay at home order went into effect. You can learn more about this credential Here . Judge Everett Mitchell was slated as our keynote speaker so for now, we fondly watch inspirational clips of him speaking .

In April, Lakeshore Learning provided each enrolled child with an educational kit to support their continued development and learning at home. Classroom staff continue to check in with children daily to provide virtual programming. Our family service and mental health teams continue to check in with families regularly to provide support. Daily Mental Health Moments was developed by the Reach Dane mental health team and our mental health consultants. These videos and resources air every weekday morning on our YouTube Channel. Our health team provide health guideline updates through “Reach Dane Health Blasts” featured on our website and the COVID-19 Family Impact Facebook Group, where other resources and updates are shared with families and staff.

We launched a meal program in partnership with Little John’s Restaurant , owned by Chef Dave Heide of Liliana’s, to continue to feed each enrolled child, and their families, while out of our centers. Little John’s has a pay-what-you-can model that is providing employment for displaced kitchen staff and supporting local food vendors that have experienced business loss. We support this program through a combination of agency meal funds and Chef Dave Heide’s fundraising campaign . This includes a virtual lemonade stand orchestrated by a young girl in our community!

United Way awarded us with a  grant from the Dane County COVID-19 Emergency and Recovery Fund to support our Rent and Food Emergency Fund. We are honored to have been selected for this grant as the food and rent crisis become crucial focus points for our agency.

Staff are drafting a plan for a “soft” reopen of the full-day/full-year classrooms and administrative offices. We do not have a goal date and we will continue to accord to the CDC and Dane County Public Health Department recommendations. Meanwhile, we continue to pay every employee and many staff members continue to work remotely.

Stay tuned for a surprise later next week!

Safe and healthy wishes to you and your family,

Reach Dane
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