Western KY child care center brings learning opportunities to students’ living rooms
Prior to the pandemic, the iKids Childhood Enrichment Center in Benton, Kentucky, had about 80 students enrolled, with 5 low-income students attending through the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). When child care centers closed in March, iKids was able to provide in-person services to 25 of those families, including the 5 who qualified for CCAP, because the parents were essential, frontline workers.
Jennifer Washburn, the director of iKids, said they still wanted to create learning opportunities for the children who were now at home all day with their parents.
“Before COVID, we had practices in place that really supported families. Our program is family focused and promotes engagement,” she said, adding that the pandemic challenged them to think of new ways to bring their early childhood learning opportunities into the homes of their students.
“We really went to Zoom to make contacts with the families that weren’t here with us. We organized Zoom playrooms to keep up contact and maintain social connections,” she said. “We shared our lesson plans with parents and allowed them to “show off” what they were doing.
She said the Zoom playrooms have been a fantastic way to keep the kids connected to each other, adding a layer of social support through quarantine. Holiday celebrations were also done virtually, and kits for each party were sent home to the students. Parents also receive daily updates and “conversation starters” so they can talk to their children about what they’re learning. While some of these things were happening pre-COVID, Washburn says that they have now more fully embraced technology that puts more learning opportunities in kids’ living rooms.
“COVID has allowed us to see into each other’s living rooms and ask ‘how can I help you better.’ I hope that continues. The systemic issues were there before, the wounds were just really visible during the pandemic.”
All of the students at iKids had great learning opportunities in 2020 despite the pandemic, however Washburn laments the fact that they are limited to only 5 who receive CCAP funding.
“We have an amazing program, 5-star rated and accredited, and have a best-practice environment. It’s unfortunate that we only have 5 children who are low-income and meet CCAP requirements. It’s a disservice to have a quality program that’s inaccessible to those who deserve access. I think that’s a tragedy.”