BRIDGEWATER — It has now been over a month since Kristen Walker saw her jovial, innocent faces — all 34 of them — in class at the B-F Pre-Kindergarten and Little Lambs Preschool.
Walker and the rest of the state of Iowa’s teachers learned Friday they will have to wait until August to step into a classroom together again.
Governor Kim Reynolds announced the closure of schools across Iowa through the remainder of the 2019-20 school year in hopes that the spread of COVID-19 will be slowed. B-F Pre-Kindergarten and Little Lambs follow these directives as well.
“It’s kind of an empty feeling because I’m not going to be able to watch these kids. We usually have a graduation and we go to the zoo,” Walker said. “We have all sorts of things we’re missing out on but the most important thing is that they stay safe too.”
Much like public schools, Walker began working toward offering a continuous learning option for her youngsters soon after the extended closure of their classes began. She’s been doing this through packets she has prepared that include any pertinent material she has on hand. Participation in them has grown now that she is sending out a second round of packets.
“You’re not sure where everyone’s at — some are at home and some are at daycares — with everything going on. You sit and worry about everyone because you normally see them all week long,” Walker said.
Walker explained that preschoolers are like sponges and every experience of learning they can receive at this young age is important. A high percentage of her students, however, are on tap to return for another year of preschool before going on to kindergarten.
“Zero to five years old is the key time for us to get things into their heads and give them background knowledge and experiences that they can use when they get into school,” Walker said. “When they go into school they’re expected to pretty much know their alphabet and that’s something we work all year long on. They get tested when they start kindergarten.”
Walker said that because her students are like sponges, they are resilient. Many of them should have a higher likelihood to be able to navigate successfully missed class time, she said, adding that a slower lifestyle most are experiencing right now may benefit some, however that can be complicated by financial or other stress caused by job layoffs some are experiencing.
“I think a lot of us thought this was just going to be for a little bit and then we’d be back in business but it’s not going to happen,” Walker said.
Walker said that she is relying on social media and word of mouth to gain registrations for next year’s preschools. Results of those are mostly on pace as usual despite registration and open house nights that were scheduled for later this spring likely getting cancelled.
At preschool, Walker explained that learning happens in fun environments, and she encourages any parent who may be educating their children at home to keep that thought in the back of their mind.
“We have fun and we play at preschool, and that’s how we learn the best. Sitting down in a chair is not going to be as effective,” Walker said. “Finding games and that sort of stuff, spending time reading books, they can learn the best that way.”