By KIMBERLY REDMOND
PATERSON, NJ – Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Paterson Family Center remains committed to doing whatever it can to provide a quality pre-school education to children from the city and support working parents.
Like every other school across New Jersey, the public health emergency has forced PFC to change how it approaches that mission.
Founded by the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC), PFC offers Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4 for 105 city children at no cost to families.
PFC, which is funded through the school district and state vouchers administered by 4Cs of Passaic County, also provides support through after-school programming to help working parents and also connects them with needed resources.
In mid-March, PFC closed the doors of its Spruce Street location as part of a statewide shutdown to limit the spread of the virus and shifted to a remote learning model for its preschool classes.
Besides distributing learning packets to families to help students continue schooling, PFC also conducted daily activities on Zoom to connect with children and planned graduation celebrations that were either virtual or individual visits by teachers, according to PFC Director Julie MacLeod.
Additionally, staffers in PFC’s Family Worker department “have helped families in need throughout the pandemic through providing resources for assistance, family advocacy, obtaining donations for families and even delivering food to the homes of families who were in need,” she said.
In early September, PFC began the new academic year virtually and plans to transition into a combination of in-classroom and online learning sometime in November, according to MacLeod.
“So many families have been affected by the pandemic and many children have lost the opportunity to engage in social activity outside the home,” she said. “PFC offers young children the opportunity to engage in learning in a high-quality preschool, as well as to experience social engagement with their teachers and classmates through daily Google Meets.”
Each student has been supplied a Chromebook by the Paterson Public School District and MacLeod said families “have been very active and engaged” during the daily virtual meetings.
“We are thrilled to see how well our preschool has transitioned to online,” she added.
If a youngster can’t log on with their parent or guardian during the day, videos of each day’s meets are posted in Google Classrooms, which, MacLeod said, “allows for all of our students to have an opportunity to participate in school.”
“So many families have been affected by the pandemic, and yes, there seems to be more stress in general. Many have other children who are also learning at home. However, the families have shown their resilience and their dedication to their children’s education by participating in school with their children every day, it has been amazing!” she said.
While PFC is currently operating on an all-remote schedule, the school will switch to a hybrid model of in-person and online learning in November – depending upon when the public school district does, according to MacLeod.
Once that transition occurs, families can also continue with the all-remote option if they’d like, she added.
PFC has come up with a smart and safe protocol to welcome back staff and students that includes screening everyone prior to entering the building and a mask-wearing requirement while inside.
“Additionally, we have increased the frequency of sanitizing the center and are in the process of purchasing a UV light room sanitizer,” she said.
“When children return to the center for in-person learning, they will also be screened daily before entry, we will limit the number of children in each group and groups of children cannot be mixed together,” said MacLeod. “We are taking every possible precaution.”
Registration for the 2020-21 school year is still being accepted, according to the school.
As of Friday, there are five open slots in Pre-K 3 and two spaces available in Pre-K 4, MacLeod said.
Call 973-413-1570 to register.