Head Start has been an absolute Godsend to our family, and specifically our girls, for so many reasons. The biggest and most recent reason was how instruction, communication with families, and connection were created and maintained during this Covid-19 season. I know that we were not the only parents who were saddened and maybe at a loss for how to go through and create some new sense of “normal” with our kids when “the stay at home” orders were put in place this last March. We definitely felt it here and while we tried, as much as we could, to find a new normal and still keep up online relationships with friends, schools, etc., we slowly started to realize and see the effects it was taking on our girls.

I want to thank Grace’s teachers and building supervisor for having weekly classroom zoom visits before in-person visits were allowed. Grace looked forward to those once-a-week visits, every Wednesday. They were the highlight of our family’s week so much so that our oldest asked her kindergarten teacher if they could do the same thing – which they did. When the possibility of having early Head Start resume this summer, I was both excited but also had a little trepidation about it.

I didn’t want to get Grace’s hopes up so we didn’t discuss it with her until close to the weekend before it was set to start. What I saw at drop off and pick up was a well worked process with the teachers and staff (especially those first few days) getting the kids checked in and keeping the parents updated. Most of the parents followed protocol and everyone was nice and courteous to each other, which is not always easy to be in these different times. The Head Start staff was on it and kept us well informed throughout it.

This summer’s in person Early Head Start program was a godsend for our social butterfly, Grace. She loved meeting her new teacher Cindy and would always talk about how nice she was. She was always talking about Miss Sarah or Miss Brittani’s nails (it’s a focus point now) and also what they taught her that day. For a week after the summer Early Head Start program ended, Grace would be in tears (sobbing and bawling) about not being able to go to class. She’d name off all the teachers she was missing that moment and would sometimes be inconsolable. She’s since gotten better but every morning she starts with this question: “Do I get to go to school yet?” When I say no, she then corrects herself and says “No, no. I mean my new school. Do I get to go to my new school today?”

To you parents, trying to find the best and safest educational opportunity for your child is no easy task, especially in today’s world. I know, I’m right there with you. I don’t have any answers for you about what to do with your older kids, but it will come to you when the time is right. My husband and I spent a long time on that one for our oldest (and she’s only going to be in 1st grade!) because of the situations we see around us within the bigger schools in this county. After much prayer and discussion, we finally think we have an answer for that one. But as far as Grace and her schooling are concerned? That was the easiest choice we could make. I assure you, we didn’t make it lightly and there are health issues within our immediate family and extended family members that make some more susceptible to the virus than others. But, they (the Head Start staff and the summer teachers) have been working on this ALL SUMMER. They have this figured out and will (to the best of their abilities) provide a safe and enriching environment for your child to learn so long as we ALL follow the plan and rules they have in place. For myself, as a parent, that’s really the best I could ask for in today’s society. I feel blessed to be able to continue to send my child to a small school and classroom so that they can still have SOME feeling of normalcy in their life and we can still be safe.

To you, the teachers, no amount of words will ever be able to fully express the gratitude that I, a parent, have for you and the kind of impact you have on my girls. You truly have and do put your kids, their families, and their safety first. You have been mourned and missed so much, I know that the kids and families (at least this family) will be glad to see you back.