Facing the possibility of losing quality teachers who couldn’t return to the classroom this fall without first finding child care, Glastonbury found a solution. The district started its own day care, primarily for children of teachers.
Identifying a shortage of child care options, the district established The Early Learning Center. It is located at a decommissioned school, formerly known as Eastbury School. The project was conceived in July and pieced together in a matter of weeks.
“We were asking ourselves, can we put this together in one short month,” said Superintendent of Glastonbury Schools Dr. Alan Bookman.
Bookman put together a team of education professionals who started the program from scratch and was operational when schools reopened earlier this month.
“It was a whirlwind and a labor of love,” said Glastonbury Public Schools CTE Director Liz Cole.
Cole was among those who helped design the program.
“This was a project full of joy, so it was fun to work on for hours on end,” Cole added.
Like all schools, The Early Learning Center has adopted strict cleaning protocols and other safety measures. Displayed around the building are signs directing traffic flow and social distancing instruction. Hand sanitizer and washing stations are plentiful. Fresh toys are also rotated in for sanitary purposes.
“You can’t really tell a 16-month-old child don’t put that in your mouth and then share it with your friend,” said Cole.
As a precaution parents aren’t allowed inside. Instead they use what is referred to as valet service.
“We ask that (parents) call us when they get here. We come out and we’ll great them and we’ll take the child from them there,” explained Program Coordinator Danielle Hunter.
The center has a combined 32 children split between infant, toddler and pre-school programs. Organizers say it has had an impact, allowing teachers to return to the classroom.
“It takes a lot of stress off them and certainly there’s a lot of stress these days,” said Assistant Superintendent Matt Dunbar.
As for the cost of this program, all families using the service pay tuition so there is no financial burden on taxpayers.
School officials say this program is not just for the short term. They intend to look at this a something that will help them recruit and retain teachers. They say it could provide an option that could help with work/life balance.