First respondents and essential workers are people we rely on for their contribution during the COVID-19 crisis. They are the people that have to be at work and don’t have the choice to work from home. With that comes the worry about their children - who is going to watch them while they are at work?
St. James Preschool and Daycare in Imperial Beach has taken on that role by staying open during the pandemic by taking care of those children whose parents are at work. Those parents range from military personnel, nurses and essential workers like supermarket employees, mechanics, and post office workers.
School director Brenda Rollins explained that the school has three classes based on age group: Preschool, TK, TK and Kinder with a maximum of 10 children per class.
“People have been calling us saying ‘We’re stuck.’ Many daycares have closed for staffing difficulties,” explained Rollins.
St. James, on the other hand, never closed its doors at the start of the outbreak and continued to operate with new rules in place. Children stay within their class and don’t intermingle with other classes, they practice social distancing, have different recess times, and lunches are also separated. “We have five big lunch tables and they do not sit by each other,” said Rollins.
Parents have heard through word of mouth that St. James is open and already two more students are scheduled to come in next week.
St. James School has been around for 41 years and some of the parents who send their children there were students themselves years ago.
Children stay busy with the many activities offered by the schools. During normal circumstances the students visit senior citizens at St. James Plaza next door, which the children have adopted as grandparents. Now with social distancing, visits are not possible but Rollins said the children write cards to the seniors and sing songs for them from a distance. Students are also writing cards to service members which are then given to military parents who distribute them on ships.
Rollins said hours are flexible at the school and children can stay as long as 10 hours and prices are affordable compared to other daycares. Each class has two teachers who have been at the school for many years. “We have very low turnover. I’ve been here for 30 years. Most have been here 14 to 16 years. Some of us went to Mar Vista High School,” said Rollins.
Because of the nice weather lately, the children often have classes outside where they can practice better social distancing. During nap time the mats are placed 6 ft away from one another.
“Every night a cleaning crew comes in. In the morning I come in and spray with disinfectant. We wash the toys using the three water wash [system] and air dry them. The kids are also learning to kill germs,” explained Rollins.
Starting this Friday visitors and parents will be required to wear masks to enter the school. “Our mission is to serve our community and help when there’s a need. We never considered closing. We’re trying to help parents. The parents are very happy, so thankful; they send us notes,” Rollins said.
St. James Preschool and Daycare, 866 Imperial Beach Boulevard. Open from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For more information call 619-424-6166.