We are currently eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic in our area, and we know that L.E.A.P.’s programs and services are more important than ever. Each person, business, and organization affected by the pandemic worldwide has been challenged to adjust to changing circumstances on a moment’s notice. Like many of us, L.E.A.P.’s 130 employees are essential workers, and the staff has done an amazing job implementing updated policies, protocols, and increasing services to meet the changing demand here in our community. In this article, we’d like to highlight some of those accomplishments!
L.E.A.P. Head Start during the pandemic
In March, L.E.A.P. made the difficult decision to pause our Head Start and Early Head Start on-site classes, but staff was still hard at work continuing to help the community.
–We delivered 15,017 diapers to families in need
–We facilitated 8-Virtual Parent support group sessions
–We sewed 5,000 handmade face masks and distributed them to our families and staff all over the county
–We prepared and delivered meals to Head Start families
–We continue to host virtual and socially distanced home visits with incoming families
–We prepared classrooms according to new CDC guidelines
We have now reopened our Early Head Start and Head Start classrooms, with reduced capacity for on-site learning and enhanced safety protocols. Parents can choose to enroll their children in virtual or home-based services. L.E.A.P. Head Start / Early Head Start studied the guidance from multiple states and federal sources including the Center for Disease Control, NYS Department of Health, NYS Office of Children and Family Services, and the Office of Head Start. Based on those recommendations, comprehensive safety protocols were implemented in all five L.E.A.P. Head Start sites in Washington County.
Here are just some examples of our extensive safety protocols:
–Social Distancing will be provided to the greatest extent possible.
–Staff are required to take their temperature and submit a certification form to verify their health status each day. Staff will wear face masks at all times while in the presence of children.
–Parents will participate in a daily entry health screening upon arrival at school or prior to the child boarding the bus. The child’s temperature will be taken with a touch free thermometer. Children who pass the screening will be escorted inside.
–Each Center-based classroom has a reduced number of children based on the size of the classroom, for a maximum group size of 10 children.
–Children and families who do not receive a center-based slot will receive services remotely, and parents may request remote services.
–Nap mats will be arranged at least 6 feet apart. All nap bedding will be provided and laundered daily. Nap mats will be sanitized daily before and after rest time.
–Meals will be plated and served rather than family-style.
–Visitors are highly restricted in all centers and no parent volunteers are permitted at this time.
–Daily cleaning, disinfecting, and hygiene protocols are in effect for all centers.
L.E.A.P. Career and Family Services during the pandemic
–Our Food Pantry is still operating, now by appointment. In fact, we can currently serve families twice per month and offer delivery of food, hygiene, and cleaning supplies to those who cannot get to our location.
–Our Transportation program for Seniors has been continuously operating to make sure that our clients could get to life-saving medical appointments like dialysis, chemotherapy, and radiation.
–Our Employment Counselors continue to provide individualized services by assisting with resumes, job searches, and connecting them with thousands of free online training courses through virtual platforms.
–We have continued to distribute Emergency Assistance funds to assist people with emergencies such as rent payments, utility shutoffs, and prescription drug costs.
–All 12 plots in the Community Garden were utilized this summer to provide fresh produce to families.
–Our Coat Drive is currently accepting donations and will again provide winter coats to children and adults of all ages and sizes in Washington County.
Recently, L.E.A.P.’s Executive Director Traci Ross shared the following about her team:
“I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for all L.E.A.P. team members who have been working every day and have persevered through all challenges. Our staff has been creative, flexible, and determined to ensure that L.E.A.P. continues to provide these important services for families in Washington County that need support more than ever. I am humbled and proud to have such a strong team dedicated to the families of Washington County.”
L.E.A.P. would also like to thank the businesses, individuals, and organizations that have generously donated money, food, and supplies; as we could not do this without their continued support.
To the Washington County families, we see you! We know that this time has been challenging for you. L.E.A.P. is open, and we are willing and ready to continue to assist and support you through this difficult and unprecedented time in our County’s history!