NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. –
Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management Susquehanna’s Child and Youth Program won the 2021 DLA Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Facility Program Excellence Award.
Throughout 2021, DLA Susquehanna CYP overcame many pandemic hurdles through innovation, creativity and teamwork. Educational efforts were successful by offering scavenger hunts, singing songs, reading stories, playing games and making videos to keep children and parents connected with the program.
The training and curriculum specialists developed creative trainings during this unprecedented time. On site, small groups of staff were socially distanced on Zoom meetings, at home using Skype/Microsoft Teams or the teleconference line. Staff were trained in medication administration, communicable diseases, bloodborne pathogens, fire, child abuse prevention, U.S. Department of Agriculture and CPR/first aid training. They also received virtual trainings on new curriculums as well as COVID-19 protocols and safety.
During this entire time, parents communicated through email, group chat, Zoom and teleconference meetings on any concerns. Parent Advisory Council meetings continued virtually and CYP hosted multiple one-hour question and answer sessions for parents on new procedures, good hygiene, face coverings for adults/children and additional cleaning and sanitation practices. An outdoor School Age Care orientation was held to prepare parents for summer camp with COVID-19 restrictions.
The Child Development Center coordinated with the DLA Installation Management Susquehanna Fire Department to pull off the first-ever drive-through pre-kindergarten graduation celebration located in the Susquehanna Club parking lot. Each child received a graduation cap, personal certificate and a goody bag as teachers, fire fighters and Sparky, the fire department mascot, enthusiastically welcomed five cars every 30 minutes until the last class member departed.
Despite the pandemic-driven program closure from March 20, 2020, to March 22, 2021, the CDC and SAC programs led from the front. CYP exhibited the ability to improvise, continuing to function during mandated funding constraints and proving to be a team player, supporting other DLA FMWR sites’ ability to reopen. Since the March 2021 reopening, CYP has been fully operational, with a 5% reduction in labor costs compared to 2020.
Weekly resources were sent to 60 parents through the Remind application and posted on the FMWR website and Facebook pages, including COVID-19 protocols, the social-emotional effects on children during a pandemic, cooking activities and links to National Zoos. Lead teachers researched, planned and implemented short lessons for children to virtually participate in every Friday. Preschool staff also set up 30-minute Zoom sessions, three days a week for the school year. The staff also created entertaining videos for the children. The preschool lead teachers read stories to the children with their masks on stressing the importance of wearing a mask when they returned to the childcare center. The families expressed their appreciation for these efforts.
Contingency plans were essential for reopening, including cleaning, training and safety procedures. As a team, the staff met virtually several times per week discussing, creating and changing documents in preparation for the inevitable reopening of the programs. The CYP program coordinator developed, updated and shared the Deliberate Risk Assessment across the enterprise to assist other DLA sites. The staff implemented hydrostatic disinfection approved equipment and cleaning supplies proven to kill the coronavirus in the CDC. Backpack sprayers were procured for easy, efficient and timely disinfection of the playground equipment. CYP rehearsed the procedures for accepting and returning children to/from their parents and the sequence of events if they had a sick child. The staff demonstrated the procedures for installation leadership and the public health officer to ensure child and staff safety.
Prior to opening, the managerial staff coordinated all the Fire, Health and Sanitation, Safety and Preventative Medicine inspections. Under strict guidelines for determining mission-essential status, families were contacted, sent a parent partnership letter and offered a tour of the building prior to reopening. There were eight children in the CDC and three children in the SAC program when the building reopened. The CDC staff worked in cohorts with two sets of teachers scheduled on alternating weeks. Careful and deliberate communication was the key to success.
Staff cleaned all surfaces in all rooms every 90 minutes and all toys were washed daily and after each use. Each child had his/her own exclusive package of art supplies. An isolation room was set up in a large empty classroom for children with COVID-19 symptoms. The classroom’s enhanced airflow, ventilation and front-facing exterior door for parent pick up reduced exposure to other children and staff.
Facing the challenges of a nationwide pandemic, this team led the way in safely reopening DLA Child and Youth Programs through coordination with Public Health Officials developing operating plans and new procedures to safely transition children into care.