By Xol Aceytuno, Sept. 7, 2021

The Children’s Center reopened this summer for in-person services and has now begun accepting new families and students into its community. This fall, the center will continue to serve parenting students by offering in-person childcare, resources and workshops.

The Children’s Center welcomed back students with a July pilot reopening offered to families who were already enrolled with the center. However, as of last month, the Children’s Center is enrolling new families. For the new families enrolling under subsidized care the fee has been removed this year, allowing qualifying families to utilize the center without having to pay any fees.

In its reopening, the center is implementing new technology. The intake process is now completely virtual, and parents can sign any related forms digitally. Parents fill out an online health screener before bringing their children to campus and use a QR code to sign them in. Parents can also use the Learning Genie app to receive updates and pictures of their students in class.

“It is amazing to see how they are learning and playing,” said Jessica Coronel, a biochemistry student who uses the app to stay updated on her daughter’s class activities. “I feel like she is a scientist. She is working with magnets, mixing different colors, in her own little mind she is testing things out. Because of the activities, she is doing, I get to see my daughter being a scientist, an artist and more.”

The Children’s Center is operating under new hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It also implemented new logistics to maintain the students’ safety.

The center is currently caring for 40 students and has four classrooms that act as separate pods. Each classroom, or pod, is given separate drop-off/pick-up locations and times to ensure students are not being exposed to those outside of their pod. Students are also given all the supplies they need for the day in the classroom to refrain from transporting materials to and from home.

“When parents are bringing their kids, they don’t have to worry about bringing blankets, food or anything,” said Celeste Salinas, director of the Children’s Center. “All they need to bring is their child dressed appropriately for the weather and an extra change of clothes; otherwise, nothing goes back and forth from home to the center.”

Once inside the classroom, students are expected to always keep their masks on, except for lunch and nap time. Students receive their own box of toys and a set of five masks, one for each day of the school week. Teachers and staff are observing strict cleaning regiments so that everything students touch is sanitized or washed daily.

The reopening push follows more than a year in which the Children’s Center was closed to in-person classes. During remote instruction, however, the center offered a variety of services to the community including Zoom classes for children and workshops for parenting students. The center also formed an official Parenting Students Club which sent out learning care packages.

According to Salinas, it was a goal for the center to be able to build these types of services that will support not just the families at the Children’s Center but parenting students across campus.

“Throughout the pandemic, we had been offering all virtual support, but parenting students showed up and they appreciated it,” added Ishia Barajas, parenting student liaison and enrollment coordinator at the Children’s Center. “We had a focus on finals study session where parenting students got on Zoom together. The Children’s Center provided food via Doordash, and students studied together. They had their kids there, some would pop in and out, but it was the fact that community was built.”

Even with all the new changes at the Children’s Center, its purpose remains the same: to support parenting students on campus. For now, the center will continue to provide virtual events for parenting students to join.

According to Salinas, as the year continues, the Children’s Center hopes to offer in-person events, broaden its hours of operation and add more students to its classrooms.

For more information on the Children’s Center, students can visit its website.

Feature image courtesy of Element5 Digital

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