Tuesday, June 1, 2020
Pivoting to Provide a Preschool Experience: We Did It!
By Andie Barbehenn, Preschool Director

And they said it couldn’t be done!  

We had such a great start in Preschool this year. We had full classes, happy children and parents, teachers who love their job, and lots of learning taking place. We left school on March 13, only to hear that Governor Wolf had closed all schools for two weeks. 

OK, we knew about the Coronavirus and had already begun extra sanitizing of our toys, etc. so two weeks didn’t sound so bad. I changed the message on my phone to say we’d re-open on March 30. Well, we all know that didn’t happen.
So, now we’re out of school indefinitely, and I changed my phone message again. What were we going to do to still provide connection and learning activities to our children? We knew that older students were switching to online learning, but at the Preschool level?  

Comments I heard from my teachers were, “Preschool is about hands on learning. We can’t do that through a computer!" “Preschool is all about relationships and learning to play and learn together.” “I’m no good with all that techy stuff – and I’m too old to learn!”  
And yet, every one of our 14 teachers stepped up and learned all that “techy” stuff. (As an aside, when JC told me we’d be having our staff meeting through Zoom, and asked if I was familiar with it, I had never even heard of it!)
So, we learned to Zoom with our students, make and send videos, create video science experiments and art activities (above, Mrs. Willans teaches a science class) , and send lots of learning activities home through email and Class DoJo. Class DoJo is another form of digital communication that many schools use to stay in contact with just their class. You can send messages, videos, photographs, etc. and no one can see them except families in that class. 

We also used Facebook and Instagram to post pictures and videos. Our music teacher sent several fun music videos and I sent a few chapel videos as well. Our two year old teachers Zoomed with their children every morning that whole time! And if you’ve never Zoomed with two year olds, you’ve got an experience waiting for you 😊
Families were so very appreciative. Many continued to pay tuition for the last two months, aware of how much work the teachers were putting in to staying connected with their children. Some had lost their jobs and were sorry they couldn’t continue to pay. 

Right: An at-home 'how to learn to use a keypad' lesson.

Some of the messages we received from family members:
“We hope you are doing well - Mrs. D and Mrs. S have been so amazing during all of this.”
“Thank you so much for still providing engagement during this difficult time.”

“Here’s a picture of my son praying with you during your chapel video.”

And I personally know of one little boy who watched those videos over and over again!
And so we end the year on a very sad note. Last Friday would have been our very last day.  No final hugs, no last day picnics, no pictures taken, and no teary families as they say good bye. We do plan to have a day in June where parents can drive through the parking lot and pick up the art work, Preschool Certificates, and anything else they left behind or the teachers have for them. 

I say with pride and a deep sense of gratitude, "It can be done and we did it!"

This photo is how we all said goodbye to our children and their families!