COVID-19 Changes Menlo Daycare Program


Children in the Menlo daycare program are not permitted to leave their fenced-in yard and interact with their parents and others on campus as they used to. “They’re not allowed to mix nor roam about campus,” Health Services Coordinator and Administrator of the Child Care Center Joan Barada said. Photo courtesy of Lisa Williams.

Abby Becker, Staff Writer

Menlo’s daycare program, officially the Child Development Center, has been a staple in the Menlo community for over 18 years. The daycare consists of three different age groups, with ages ranging from two months to five years: infants, juniors preschoolers and senior preschoolers. All faculty and staff are eligible to have their children in the program, and although parents do have to pay a yearly fee, the daycare is funded by the school. This year, there are six childcare providers and 14 children enrolled in the program.

According to Director of Child Development Center Lisa Williams, the purpose of the program is to provide a way for Menlo staff to easily access their children on campus, while also offering additional infant care that they may not be able to get at other centers. “You can have your child on campus with you for five years, which is not typical,” Williams said. 

Many staff members feel fortunate to have their kids so close to them on campus. “It’s comforting just knowing that if there’s an emergency I can be [at the daycare] in two minutes,” Coordinator of Student Activities Frances Ferrell said. Ferrell has a one-and-a-half-year-old son who is currently enrolled in the program.

During the day, the children participate in a wide range of age-appropriate activities such as music, story-telling and artwork. In previous years, they would be able to take advantage of the campus by doing campus walks and visiting different classrooms and parents.

The Menlo daycare program is located near the middle school campus, where they have recently expanded into a third classroom that was previously Music at Menlo. “Now, the junior preschool is in a separate building,” Barada said. Junior preschoolers are aged 24 to 36 months. Photo courtesy of Lisa Williams.

However, COVID-19 has limited many of the activities the children can do. They can no longer roam the campus and are confined to the daycare center. “We just stay within our fenced-in area now because we don’t want the kids to be exposed to a lot of different people,” Williams said.

In response to this isolation, the daycare has implemented an app called HiMama, which allows for childcare providers to log activities and publish photos and videos of the kids for the parents to see, as well as electronically check the kids in and out. “I can see what he’s been up to over there, which is reassuring,” Ferrell said. 

The center itself has also been altered in order to maximize COVID-19 safety. While it still has two classrooms located near the middle school campus, the center has recently expanded into a third classroom, which was previously occupied by Music at Menlo, in order for each age group to have their own space. In addition to the building expansion itself, medical-grade purifiers have been added and the flooring has been changed in order to make the rooms easier to clean. “The school didn’t shy away from spending what needed to be spent,” Health Services Coordinator and Administrator of Child Care Center Joan Barada said.

Sanitization efforts have also been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Kids who are two years and older are required to wear masks at all times, which is in line with current CDC guidelines, except when napping and eating because of safety concerns. All of the childcare providers wear KN95 masks and scrubs, which are periodically changed throughout the day, according to Williams. Hand-washing and toy-washing are also frequent. “It’s our usual cleaning routine, but tenfold,” Williams said. 

Despite COVID-19 precautions, Williams is confident that the children won’t face any long-term COVID-19-related impacts. “I haven’t really seen any of them be significantly challenged by all of the changes, as long as they’re together and we’re keeping them busy with lots of activities,” Williams said.

Before the pandemic, children in the Menlo Daycare program spent the day indoors while their parents worked on campus as teachers or staff members. Photo courtesy of Lisa Williams.