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Mason’s Child Development Center plans to reopen in August with new safety procedures

July 8, 2020   /   by Anna Stolley Persky

During the shutdown, Child Development Center teachers and administrators created a Facebook group where they posted videos, activities and resources. Photo provided

The Child Development Center at George Mason University, which has been shuttered since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, plans to reopen Aug. 3, with new health and safety procedures in place.

The center’s current capacity is for 100 children. However, when it re-opens, class sizes will be limited due to coronavirus-related licensing regulations. The center will initially re-open to currently enrolled children between age 2 and prekindergarten, and then potentially expand to include additional children as the academic year progresses. The hours will be limited to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. with the plan to increase them to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in September.

The new safety procedures include social distancing and individual play, increased sanitization, decreased class sizes, more outside play and health checks for the children before entering the building. During the center’s closure, its staff have maintained a connection with the families and prepared them for returning under different-looking circumstances.

Teachers at Mason's Child Development Center have stayed in touch with students and their families during the closure. Photo provided

“The families already know to expect some changes related to safety precautions,” said Shira Kulok, the center’s director.

The staff will be required to wear masks, and the children will be “strongly encouraged” to do the same, said Kulok.

“We are encouraging the children to wear masks, but not requiring them,” Kulok said. “Requiring a very young child to wear a mask has the potential to cause trauma or fear, and we want to be mindful of that.”

The center was established to support university faculty, staff and students by providing an on-site, play-based preschool program. In addition to the preschool, the center traditionally opens its doors for children between kindergarten and third grade on days when Fairfax County Public Schools are closed, but Mason is in session. However, that program, called Mason Kids Club, has been put on hold at least temporarily due to space restrictions, according to Kulok.

During the shutdown, center teachers and administrators created a Facebook group in which they posted videos, activities and resources, and teachers reached out to their students with Zoom calls, according to Michelle Malone, the center’s program coordinator.

“More recently teachers have been posting videos of themselves wearing their masks to help the children get used to teachers wearing masks,” said Malone.

The center’s teachers and administrators worked hard to stay connected with the families and provide them with activities and entertainment every day.

“We wanted to help maintain a sense of routine for our children,” Kulok said. “We wanted to give them continuity and reassure them that we would be reunited again.”