By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
When the Denise Louie Education Center closed on March 13 when Gov. Jay Inslee issued the stay-at-home orders, it was uncertain when it would reopen. Certainly, concerns over COVID-19 had many parents worried about returning their children to daycare. But the organization adjusted and while it has helped many kids virtually, it reopened its facilities with the added responsibility of educating the kids on the new rules of staying healthy and safe.
Denise Louie has four education centers serving the city of Seattle: Magnuson, the International District (ID), Beacon Hill, and Rainier Beach. Since 1978, the organization provides multicultural early learning services to children and families, especially those in need. The center reopened its Magnuson site in April and then its ID, Beacon Hill, and Rainier Beach sites followed in June.
“Many of the intergenerational families were worried about elders or their kiddos that had asthma and/or themselves having chronic health issues,” said Executive Director Susan Yang, about the return to in-person education. According to Yang, about half of the families came back in person.
“We set up remote services and many opted to receive [remote services] in lieu of onsite.”
In order to assure parents and staff that a return to the daycare would be safe for all, there were a multitude of health and safety procedures put in place. This included daily screenings of children and parents at drop off to ensure there are no health issues. Parents are allowed to drop their child at the front door only, and cannot go inside to reduce the exposure of risks.
Mask wearing is mandatory for kids five and older and teachers working with the younger kids that are not wearing masks. Social distancing is practiced within the classrooms and signs are in place as a reminder. The staff have removed any toy that cannot be easily cleaned and those that remain are cleaned after a child has used it once.
In order to educate and remind the children that they have to wash their hands for a certain amount of time, teachers have found unique and entertaining ways to help them remember. They’ve taught them songs to sing while washing their hands for an appropriate amount of time and they’ve done experiments to show the importance of washing hands. They’ve also explained the importance of wearing masks and keeping distance from their classmates to stop the spread of germs.
With the shutdown of businesses, Denise Louie was one of the many impacted.
“We have been fortunate to be able to raise some additional funds and take advantage of some of the available funding from public folks, and our private dollars and institutional grantors have been more flexible,” said Yang of the economic impact. The daycare has received a Paycheck Protection Program Loan, which has helped retain the staff at a time when class sizes have decreased.
One of its big fundraisers for the center is its annual auction. The funds from the auction usually generate 5% of the annual budget for the organization.
“While we are still providing childcare both in person and virtually for children and families, we are also providing provisional services to help continue to close the opportunity gap for Seattle’s most vulnerable families,” said Development Director Nikki Huang. Denise Louie will hold a virtual auction and dinner on Oct. 10. It is partnering with a local business which will deliver catered meals and a bottle of wine to households within King County that they can share and “dine with others” online. The virtual dinner, which mimics traditional tables, and auction is a way to work around the pandemic while maintaining certain annual gatherings to raise money for the center.
For more information, visit deniselouie.org.
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