In Kansas City, Kan.’s urban core resides The Learning Curve Center – or TLC, as director Tiffany Harper calls it because “with a little TLC, little brains think big.” TLC is one of the many child care centers across the country that has stayed open during the pandemic to serve children of essential and emergency personnel.
“We’re all about positivity at TLC, so we’re thankful we can remain open and spread that love throughout our community,” Tiffany said. “We’re in this together.”
A child care veteran with more than 23 years under her belt, Tiffany has been through a lot of ups and downs, which have helped her remain calm and steady during the pandemic. Her experience has also taught her the importance of leveraging community partners for support.
Case in point: before COVID-19, TLC was licensed for 98 children. Today, the center sees between 25-35 children each day. That significant dip in enrollment could’ve meant furloughs and even closure if Tiffany hadn’t built strong relationships with organizations in the community.
“We have tremendous support from our community partners, such as the Family Conservancy and United Way,” said Tiffany. “They help us with everything from supplying gift cards to provide to families in need, helping us pay salary, helping families finance their care and more. And that means we can keep our doors open and keep all of our staff on payroll.”
Because TLC is able to remain open, they’ve had to implement a number of new policies and procedures to ensure the safety of their children, parents and staff. First, teachers wear masks – many of which were made by a local seamstress after Tiffany’s Amazon shipment of masks never arrived. The staff has used the masks as an opportunity to communicate – in an educational, upbeat way – how masks help keep the kids safe.
TLC’s building is laid out in a way that it has an isolated foyer away from all the classrooms. This allows parents to come into the building to drop their children off. The area is sanitized three times per day to eliminate any germs that may have been brought in from the outside. Prior to bringing the children into the main area of the building, the staff conducts health checks to ensure no one has a temperature.
They’ve also ramped up their daily cleaning of toys and learning materials, as well as playground equipment (which is limited to the items they can sanitize easily like the slides – the ball pit has been closed down for now).
When asked how parents have reacted to the changes, Tiffany said they’ve all been really supportive because she has built a trusting, caring and positive environment.
“One of the things I make sure to do when bringing new kids to the center is interview their parents,” said Tiffany. “It’s important that they have the same positive mindset we do, and will follow the policies we’ve instituted to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
Same goes for staff. Tiffany said it has made a world of difference to have a staff that easily adapts to the changes and operates with the vision that their No. 1 job is to provide a safe and healthy place for the children to be.
Asked about any advice she has for fellow child care providers, Tiffany said it’s important to stay positive and instead of fighting the changes, work to accommodate them in a way that best serves your children and staff.
“I have no intention of spending my days making space for negativity,” said Tiffany. “This situation isn’t something we have precedent for, but it’s important to accept that the virus is here. While we can’t control it, we can control how we show up for our children and families, and that’s why I maintain an upbeat outlook.”