by Bella Woodhouse Contributing Writer
Sweatt-Winter Childcare and Education Center has had to follow state required regulations in order to stay open and safe for the children.
The teachers working at Sweatt-Winter are constantly looking for ways to help children understand social distancing. “A teacher came up with what was originally three raccoons apart because they are two feet long but now it is whatever animal you prefer. It was something to help the kids understand 6 feet apart better,” said Julie Farmer, Director of Sweatt-Winter.
Yet, physical distancing has been hard for the children at Sweatt-Winter to understand. “The children are following the mask rule very well for such a young age. However, they are having a hard time consistently staying 6 feet away,” said second-year student worker Sierra Pennington.
Farmer and the teachers/students at Sweatt-Winter have become more flexible in wearing masks in physical distancing situations. “The kids keep them on for the most part but when they are outside playing they can take them off,” said Farmer. “The students can also ask for a quick mask break if they feel they need one.”
The COVID-19 rules and policies for Sweatt-Winter were heavily influenced by the Maine Center for Disease Control guidelines regarding COVID-19. “We don’t force preschool-age kids to wear masks, but anyone above the age of 5 has too,” says Farmer. “Parents aren’t allowed in the building and any other adult [such as workers] has to have their temperature checked before entering. If any student or adult has symptoms they have to have a doctor’s note before coming back.”
Sweatt-Winter workers have been fully prepared to keep the child care a consistently clean environment for the kids. “I feel safe as a work study student at Sweatt-Winter,” said Pennington. “Workers are constantly cleaning all areas including highly-trafficked areas such as doorknobs, phones, tables, etc. The children are washing their hands multiple times a day as well as the workers.”
Before they even step inside, workers have to check for possible symptoms before beginning their day, “Workers have to follow more safety precautions, such as required temperature checks before entering, sanitizing and handwashing more often, and wearing gloves to serve any food to the kids,” Farmer said.
However, there still were some safety concerns, parents were worried about the influx of people coming on to campus when the university opened. Now that a few weeks have gone by, “Those feelings have also settled down,” said Farmer. “UMF and Sweatt-Winter are doing what we can to keep students safe and healthy.”