LIFE LESSONS: Preschools teach how to handle COVID-19
KEEPING children in pre-schools and schools is a valuable way of teaching young people the right ways to combat the coronavirus pandemic says a local pre-school manager.
The director at the Uniting Pre-School, Grafton, Neil Gorring, said it might seem counter intuitive, but keeping children coming to schools and pre-schools had many health benefits.
He said the Uniting Pre-School provides a case study to show how the community benefits from sending children to school when in other cases the government recommendation was to close down large gatherings of people.
Mr Gorring said the children at his school learned valuable techniques around keeping themselves safe and healthy during the pandemic.
"We reinforce all the messages about things like comprehensive hand washing, coughing into the elbow or if in their hands, washing, as well as behaving responsibly socially," he said.
"Everything we do is in the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines."
Mr Gorring said his school had a core directive to provide support to its children and their families.
"For us at the moment, staying open supports that directive," he said.
"With what's going on, coming to pre-school gives children some normality in their lives.
"The can come to pre-school and enjoy their friends and socialising.
"They pick up on what people are saying around them and they know something's wrong, so having something normal in their lives is reassuring for them."
But many of the pre-school's normal activities have changed as the pandemic deepens.
Parents have been banned from coming into the premises.
"When parents drop off children a staff member greets them at the door," Mr Gorring said.
"They bring the students into the building and take their lunch box from them to put in the fridge."
He said it was important to minimise the amount of surfaces people touched.
"This is why we take the lunches from the children, then hand them out at lunch time," he said.
"When children arrived we let them check in on an iPad. Now we have a staff member dedicated to this so we can control who touches that surface."
He said keeping pre-schools and schools open had health and economic benefits.
"We're aware that many health professionals would not be able to go to work if they had to stay home to look after their children," Mr Gorring said.
"And if people who could go to work have to stay at home to look after children, that's going to have a big impact on the ability to keep people in jobs and the economy ticking over."
Mr Gorring said the government could change the rules or even decide to close down schools at a moment's notice.
"This thing's always evolving, and we have to evolve with it," he said.
"If there's a change in the guidelines we look to what's coming from our group, Uniting as well as the State and Federal health departments.
"As things crop up, we let the authorities know what's happening and we're guided by them.
"For instance this week, we added a deep cleaning procedure to the school on top of the regular cleaning by staff."
Mr Gorring said the attitudes of the parents of the children at the school had impressed him.
"They've taken on board all the changes we've made here and supported the school," he said.
"We've communicated the reasons for what we're doing and they can see that none of it is unreasonable."
He said if the government closed down schools he was confident the children at the school have learned everything they need to keep them as healthy and safe as was possible.
For more on the impact of coronavirus in the Clarence Valley, click here.