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Reimagining Education in the Shadow of COVID
By Shawn Deiter     September 30, 2020

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Nothing has proven this more than the past few months as we navigate our way through the Coronavirus pandemic. And although the world has slowed down, learning never stops. LVCC has needed to quickly adapt to a continuously changing environment and pivot programs to meet the needs of the community, all while keeping the health and safety of the children and staff a top priority.

LVCC teachers have adopted new teaching methods, spending more time outdoors (when the weather cooperates) and incorporating educational activities where the children physically distance from each other in smaller settings. Each child has their own set of art supplies or any supplies shared are sanitized before changing hands. The younger children sing songs about wearing face masks and washing hands to encourage good hygiene. The children take daily “mask breaks” where they physically distance outside and take off their masks for a few minutes for some fresh air.

With many Lehigh Valley field trip sites limiting groups and smaller numbers of children allowed per bus, LVCC has needed to adapt approaches to educational field trips and visitors. This fall, LVCC will take preschool and Pre-K Counts classrooms on virtual field trips with the Flint Hill Farm Educational Center. This farm to ECE (Early Childhood Education) initiative is made possible by a partnership with The Food Trust’s Ready, Set, Grow! program, supported by Pennsylvania’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed. Fresh vegetables grown at the farm will be delivered to the centers for the children to prepare and eat. Thanks to our friends at The Food Trust, each preschooler will also receive basil to plant at home. These experiences are especially meaningful for children living in urban neighborhoods. The centers that were chosen for this program are LVCC’s Judith Chase Early Learning Center in Allentown, LVCC’s Campus Center in Bethlehem, LVCC at Spring Garden Early Learning Center in Easton and LVCC on Walnut Street in Allentown.

Fall activities wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the pumpkin patch! Preschool and Pre-k Counts children will experience a virtual pumpkin patch field trip, and receive their very own pumpkin to decorate and take home.

The return to the 2020-21 school year has seen some changes too. For Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts classrooms based inside elementary schools, the students now follow a hybrid model of learning—attending in person a few days week and taking virtual lessons for the other days.

Some elementary school students need to attend a full day at LVCC’s child care programs rather than before or after school, depending on a family’s work schedule. LVCC has partnered with area school districts and a coalition of area child care providers to ensure these children have the learning tools and support needed for hybrid learning. Participating partners in this new Edu-Childcare program share waiting lists and referrals, with the common goal of making sure children and families in need can be served. LVCC’s Edu-Childcare program enables children to connect with their own school teachers remotely on the district’s virtual learning schedule, while receiving support from LVCC teachers.

To fully support virtual learning, LVCC purchased iPads and headphones along with upgrading equipment to expand Internet access throughout the buildings. The new equipment will assist Pre-K Counts students with their virtual learning from home, as well as enhance the virtual learning environment for school-age children while in our care.

LVCC also invested in personal protective equipment – facemasks, smocks for staff, no touch thermometers, UVC disinfection wands, hand sanitizer, and portable sinks for children to wash their hands when they enter the building.

LVCC will continue to innovate programs to our changing environment. We thank LVCC families for their patience and understanding and the community for their steadfast support during this unprecedented time.