For the past seven weeks now, Milpitas Unified School District’s (MUSD) Child Development Center (CDC) Summer Program has been in operation, serving 30 students by way of daily in-person instruction.
Located at Rose Elementary School, the center is a true model for what the reopening of schools might look like come the Fall. Working to ensure that all health and sanitation protocols are in place, the Rose CDC team aims to consistently create a safe environment for all students who come into their classrooms.
In March, as COVID-19 was spreading throughout Santa Clara County, MUSD’s CDC programs closed, along with all of the other schools across the county’s districts. But on June 8, the Rose CDC was able to reopen and begin serving families of essential workers.
“Many were heading back to work in nursing and food industry and transportation,” said Dr. Gerry Lopez, MUSD’s Coordinator for Early Childhood Development. “So when we extended service to our existing families, we quickly filled to capacity, which is three classes.”
Although the student-to-teacher ratio allowed by the County is 12 to 1, Dr. Lopez mentioned that they decided on a 10 to 1 ratio, in keeping with what is recommended by the California Department of Education.
The three classes at the Rose center consist of one preschool class, one TK class, and one school-age class. In the current format, they only have space enough for 30 students.
“During a regular summer, we’d have 24 full-day preschool, and 90 part-time students…and usually around 50 school-age students at two centers, across Sinnott and Rose,” said Dr. Lopez. “This year, we only have one school-age class and the Sinnott program is closed.”
During summers, MUSD’s CDC program behind Weller Elementary, known as Sunnyhills CDC, is always closed, and so students from that program also go to Rose. At present, the Rose summer program estimates two Sunnyhills students.
On July 1, the Rose center was allowed to start offering services to children from families with nonessential workers. However, since they had already reached capacity with the essential worker families, they had no room for anyone else.
During the regular school year, the Rose CDC program serves 60 part-time preschool students, 24 full-day preschoolers, and 40 school-age students in grades K-6.
“One thing we learned is that when you decrease your ratio from 24 to 1, and go down to 10, you will need two and half times the number of classrooms to take care of all students,” said Dr. Lopez.
Not only that, but with the decreased ratio, more staffing is necessary to ensure the new protocols are implemented and followed.
“Right now, we’re operating very thin. For the 30 students, we have six and a half classroom teachers…the half works part-time as a floater,” Dr. Lopez explained.
Due to all the demands of the full-day program, Dr. Lopez juggles various tasks. He’s the coordinator, supervisor, and also a staff member; he helps to cover breaks, clean, and make copies, doing all he can to keep things running smoothly.
Children have their temperature taken a few times a day. The staff is consistently cleaning and disinfecting, and everyone frequently washes their hands. All the teachers also wear masks.
“Constant monitoring of protocols is undertaken and designated staff carry out the constant sanitizing of manipulatives, classrooms, and outside equipment,” shared Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Development Norma Rodriguez. “Lunches are distributed following a prescribed process which ensures that children can be provided with nutrition services in as safe a manner as possible.”
MUSD Board President Hon Lien, who recently took a tour of the Rose CDC, is pleased by how smoothly the program has run so far:
“According to our licensing consultant, we are the only LEA [Local Education Agency] based program in Alameda County and Santa Clara County that is opened,” said President Lien. “This program is a model. Right now [across MUSD] all the school site supervisors, janitorial services, principals, staff—they are sitting down, meeting almost every day just to brainstorm and get ideas of how reopening would be. They are working hard to be ready for the school year. We know that cases are on the rise. So we’re making changes that are about risk reduction. ”
Dr. Lopez sees what they’re achieving at the center as a micro experiment of sorts; one that has helped them to see how to implement health and safety procedures across all schools come the Fall.
“It’s very doable,” said Dr. Lopez. “It just takes a lot of planning. It’s giving all of us [at MUSD] a heads-up of what to expect when we open our full TK to 12th grade in the Fall.”
Once the Fall sessions start, the Rose CDC will be on a hybrid class schedule, along with the rest of MUSD. In this model, students will be attending class a couple days a week, and for the rest of the week engage in distant learning. Rose will also be running an after school program, as they usually do during the year. Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that any county on the state’s monitoring list can only open for in-person instruction once that county has been off the list for 14 days. Santa Clara County is currently on the list.
This year, after 30 years, Rita Elmore, one of Rose CDC’s staff members, retired from her position. Dr. Lopez mentioned that Elmore is an “incredible lady” who, even though she is officially retired, still comes in a couple days a week to help out at the center.
The Rose Child Development Center has been in existence for nearly five decades. Many past students who are now college-age often pop in to say hello to their past teachers, and sometimes parents will sign their children up, nostalgic about their own time as children in the program.
“We have the privilege of serving the grandchildren of some original preschoolers that came to our program back in the 70s,” said Dr. Lopez. “It’s very much a community beacon.”