A group of Delaware students got to go back to school July 6 – and they had the time of their lives.
“I was able to hear one of the groups singing, one group was playing a game and laughing and another group was having a dance challenge. Absolutely, they were happy,” said Pamela Steurer, director of the Delaware City Schools’ School Age Child Care and Community Programs.
“It was exciting to hear the excitement and joy of the kids.”
The occasion was the first day of the reopening of the district’s SACC program, interrupted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Steurer said 54 students – from kindergartners to eighth-graders – are enrolled in the program at Woodward Elementary School, 200 S. Washington St.
“One of the most wonderful things the first day was seeing the kids come in. ... The staff felt the same way. It was really exciting for the kids and the staff to be together,” she said.
Steurer said SACC’s return follows pandemic safety guidelines issued by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Child Care Licensing Division.
Before the pandemic, SACC operated during the school year at Dempsey Middle School and sessions rotated among the elementary buildings, Steurer said. About 550 students attended those sessions, she added.
In addition, about 250 students attended a summer SACC program lasting up to nine weeks, she said.
That routine came to a stop when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the state’s schools to close March 17 because of the pandemic.
While the enrollment of this summer’s SACC is far below what had been normal, it nonetheless coincides with a reduced demand for SACC, Steurer said.
The district surveyed parents on their child-care needs, she said, and learned many had made summer plans.
“A lot of families are still working from home, so they can care for their kids while they do that. Others were a little nervous about sending their kids to SACC. There was some hesitancy there,” Steurer said.
While registration was open on a first-come, first-served basis, she said the program didn’t have much of a waiting list when all open spots were taken. As a result, she said, while SACC did fill up quickly, “we could get in everyone that decided they wanted to be in.”
“The district is very pleased to offer summer SACC for our families,” said district spokeswoman Jennifer Ruhe. “Although the program has fewer students than a typical summer, it is an important service for our families. Our SACC team has gone above and beyond to provide a safe, yet fun experience for our students.”
SACC runs from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 7, Steurer said. Parents can drop off students between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. and pick them up between 4 and 6 p.m. she said.
Because of the pandemic, parents drop their children off curbside and wait while the SACC conducts a wellness check, taking each child’s temperature with a noncontact thermometer and asking how they feel, Steurer said.
A similar daily wellness check is performed on the SACC staff, she said, and anyone with a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will be sent back home.
In the SACC’s first two days, she said, all students and staff passed the wellness check.
Everyone at SACC practices social distancing and wears masks when indoors or unable to be separated by the recommended distance outdoors, Steurer said.
A perception that children under age 10 can’t be expected to reliably wear face masks has not proven to be the case at SACC, Steurer said.
The youngest children at SACC “have handled it wonderfully,” she said. All the children bring masks from home and SACC has some spares for those who forget, she said.
Sometimes, the staff has had to remind the children to put the masks back on when they return to the building after an outdoor activity, she said, but otherwise the children have worn the masks with no complaints or problems.
Woodward has several outdoor areas, including two playgrounds, a shaded picnic area and an inner courtyard, she said.
SACC provides plenty of opportunities to go outdoors, including physical and educational activities, she said.
In most of the outdoor spaces, children can maintain social distancing, but some games require proximity, and then students wear their masks, Steurer said.
The SACC staff spent a week in Woodward preparing for the program’s opening, wearing masks the whole time, she said.
Student are separated into six classrooms, with any siblings assigned to the same room. Students who normally attend the same building also are placed together, Steurer said, “for them to see people they know – their peers and familiar faces.”
Before the pandemic, two SACC staffers would work with a group of 36 children. Because of this summer’s reduced enrollment, two staffers work with only nine children, Steurer said.
That reduced ratio is a benefit this year, she said, because SACC always focuses on academic support and encouragement, and continuing the focus on learning during the summer.
The students participate in the Delaware County District Library’s summer reading program. The SACC schedule includes STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning, a nature scavenger hunt and other opportunities, in addition to daily lessons, Steurer said.
SACC students are fed lunch and given morning and afternoon snacks, she said.
The school district is continuing to offer grab-and-go meals to district families on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at locations including Conger and Woodward elementary schools for the duration of the summer, she said.
Before SACC reopened last week, the staff was busy providing a virtual summer program for students, using the same online connections that provided remote learning during the school year, Steurer said.
The program provided at least three activities a day, suggestions for physical fitness – such as yoga or a dance challenge – an hour-long connection with school staff members and a virtual field trip every Friday.