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How A San Bernardino Childcare Facility Is Coping This Far Into The Pandemic

Oak Tree Learning Center

At the beginning of the pandemic-related lockdowns in March, KVCR profiled a preschool center in San Bernardino that was dealing with too many kids and not enough toilet paper. Today, we check back in with Oak Tree Learning Center to see how they’re coping this far into the pandemic.

Jennifer Carter runs Oak Tree Learning Center. She says a lack of toilet paper is no longer an issue there.

“Supplies haven't been an issue since like maybe May or June. I think once people got their minds around the idea that we would be in this situation for a while, no one was doing like a mad rush to get things, so it's been a lot easier,” Carter says. 

The number of kids, though, is still an issue.

“We get calls constantly and we're almost at a point where we will not be able to take more children who are in school. We've set up a distance learning center, I guess you would say, we have little groups of 10 or 12 kids, no more than 12, with one teacher and we manage their schedules and things like that, on the school-age side, and then on the preschool side, again with that ten ratio we're just about ten per teacher. Which in the preschool world, two- and three-year-olds, ten is actually a lot. Like I said we're not at maximum capacity for our center but we're at maximum capacity for our staff," Carter says. 

Carter says that, coupled with everything else going on in the world, is a recipe for burnout among her staff.

“Because you have the stress of everything, everyone else is stressed out. The election, coronavirus, unemployment and those things. But then you also, working in early childhood education is really stressful, and because of the type of program we have, and the relationships with different organizations, we actually have a number of kids who have different kinds of trauma," Carter says. 

"And so, that comes out in all different kinds of behavior which, the teachers are fantastic about it but at the same time that's really taxing, it really can take a toll on their mental health. And so, we've been trying as much as possible, we had a staff development day on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we took that as an opportunity to kind of come together and talk, but then I also hired someone to give us massages. Because it's stressful, it's very stressful.”

On top of all that stress, staff at Oak Tree also have to contend with the various forms of trauma that kids bring with them to school.

“San Bernardino has its high rate of poverty, high rate of transience, and all of the afflictions that go with that, like sometimes there's drug abuse, sometimes there's familial abuse with moms and dads or sisters and brothers, whatever the case. We have a number of kids who are in foster care, so the circumstances that have led them to foster care range from apathetic parents to abusive parents. So, all of those things come out in very, very different ways and that behavior can be challenging,” Carter says.

KVCR asked Carter what support she would like to get from local, state and federal government.

“Money is part of the solution, but then I think we really are thinking about childcare and how we serve communities in a way that's outdated and antiquated. People are at home with their children and they're really getting to see how teaching and how working with children is an actual science and there's an art to it, and there's skill involved," Carter says.

:They're taking their parenting responsibilities and rethinking them, and we know what our childcare responsibilities and where we're trying to figure that out, I think the state and federal government then has an obligation then to re-approach this with those different perspectives and with fresh eyes. It's not, let's just throw some money at it, how about we form some groups of people and teams and things that are more regional to really help people with what they need instead of doing something that's just a big blanket."

"So, I would love to have like regional commissions where we can really solve these problems because the things I'm facing in San Bernardino are quite different than my friend in San Francisco. It's totally different, it's like a whole different country. And so, I think more than anything, it's the state and the federal government reimagining and not trying to use the same tactics to fix new problems.”

You can hear more of Jennifer Carter on her podcast, Mrs. C’s Podcast for Parents, Teachers and Administrators.

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