They created an ongoing COVID-19 testing program specifically for an early childhood learning organization. On Clayton’s campus, regular testing is offered at no cost for students and their household members, along with the entire staff and their families. According to the school, their program is the first-of-its-kind in the state.
“We’ve had a great opportunity since early September to be doing symptomatic virus testing here at Clayton,” said President and CEO Becky Crowe. “With the pandemic, we’ve been able to get a majority of our staff tested and that’s enabled us to stay open, healthy, and safe during this really difficult time.”
Clayton Early Learning serves students between three and five years old from Denver and the surrounding metro area. The 500 students are also part of the Head Start and Early Head Start program. Crowe said like most schools, they had to shut their doors last March because of the pandemic with most of the school’s parents not having the option of working from home.
“There’s so many things that have become evident to people of the course of the pandemic in terms of inequities in our society,” Crowe said. “100% of our students live below the poverty line here in Denver and the majority of our kids are kids of color.”
Every two weeks, the school offers free testing to their staff members, students and their families. Clayton also offers a drive-through community testing site, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, from 7:15 a.m. to 9 a.m. It's free and open to the public.
The school said they have been able to stay open consistently since June with the help of this virus testing and all the health and safety protocols they have in place like check-in stations for children and families entering the campus, taking temperatures multiple times a day, and very careful cleaning processes.
“It’s absolutely in our DNA to nurture and care for our families here on campus,” Crowe said. “To make Clayton a place that is a welcoming place for the community where they can find supports for their needs as well.”
“It speaks a lot about the organization,” said teacher Tina Smith. “And how much they care not only for their teachers but for the children and the greater community.”
Smith has been a lead teacher at Clayton for the past four-and-a-half years and said the testing is important for her to work.
“I’m at that age where COVID could be really serious for me. I have some underlying conditions, but this is more important than anything else.”
She agrees the new protocols are important for the Clayton campus to be open for the students because on-line learning doesn’t necessarily work with children this age.
“Children from the ages of three to five we are helping them to build their character and to build who they are,” Smith said. “The primary goal for these children is to help them interact with each other and to become part of our society.”
Parents like Derrick Campbell also agree the new testing is important and lets him breathe a little easier. His daughter Delilah is a student at the school and has a weak immune system.
“It plays a big important factor into her health and to make sure she’s healthy on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s nice to know that she can do it, she takes it like a champ and it just makes us feel safe every time we know the testing is coming up.”
The school hopes the new protocols will lend a helping hand to keep their parents working by making sure students and staff are safe on campus.
“These teachers have been essential workers who have been on the frontlines from the beginning of the pandemic,” Crowe said. “Anything that we can do as a community to support this workforce is really going to pay dividends for the whole community for our economy getting back to work.”
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