Keeping it Clean During COVID-19

ECF grant helps Strathcona Nursery School purchase disinfectable toys and a commercial dish washer

Mitzi Weselowski doesn’t hesitate when asked about how COVID has affected her work. The head teacher at Strathcona Nursery School has had to navigate a laundry list of challenges and changes since the out-of-school care program reopened in the fall, but the one that has been the most onerous is the literal laundry list.

“The cleaning schedule is ridiculous,” she says with a comic stress on the last word. “Honestly, as teachers we’re doing more cleaning than planning and gathering materials.”

Though she is of course happy to comply for the safety of the children and families who consider Strathcona Nursery School a second home, the ripple effects of all these precautions do more than just turn her into a part-time caretaker: they also narrow the children’s world just a little bit more than has already happened.

“You can’t follow your teaching philosophy, just because you can’t provide them with all the materials,” Weselowski explains. “We can’t have wooden blocks, we can’t have doll clothes — we can’t even use natural materials, like sticks or pinecones or leaves, because it all has to be disinfected.”

When Edmonton Community Foundation’s (ECF) COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund came forward with $8,000 to help buy disinfectable toys and a commercial dish washer to help lighten the load, it felt a bit like a minor miracle to Weselowski and the volunteer board. Already strapped due to space restrictions and lower registration, Strathcona Nursery School has been able to restore some normalcy to its students and their families.

“We were very happy to help Strathcona Nursery School provide the best experience for the children during a time when that’s not always easy,” Nneka Otogbolu, ECF’s Director of Communications and Equity Strategy says. “It puts a smile on our face knowing that the kids have safe toys to play with and that we’ve helped make the staff’s jobs just a little bit easier.”

While it will be a while before they get their full spectrum of activities back — and can start the lessons on sharing Play Doh again — the School is focusing on the thing that hasn’t changed, even in the time of social distancing: the sense of community and togetherness that radiates far beyond its doors.

“When it reopened, it wasn’t just about childcare for us,” explains Dova Sharp, whose daughter is attending the Nursery School three days a week through fall and winter. “Seeing her with her friends again, just how lit up she is when she comes and good from preschool, it’s amazing. Everyone is her best friend.”

“We used to have parents volunteering in the classroom all the time, which we no longer can do, so that does feel like a loss,” says Weselowksi. “But what I have seen is how thrilled the families are for their kids to be able to play with other kids again. People have told me they were worried about their child being lonely while we were closed, so it’s nice that we’re able to continue to give them that.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.