At a specially called meeting scheduled for July 22, the District 65 School Board will be asked to approve the reopening of the Doorway to Learning Childcare Center at the Joseph E. Hill Administration building. The Childcare Center was closed on March 13, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If approved, the Center will reopen in accordance with a 35-page plan that says the Center “commits to ensuring all of DCFS licensing guidelines are followed, as well as the guidelines issued by the CDC [Center for Disease Control] and IDPH [Illinois Department of Public Health] and the City of Evanston, in response to the COVID-19 virus in order to prevent exposure to the coronavirus in the Center, and limit the spread of COVID-19 within our community if there is exposure.”

The plan outlines the proposed process, procedures and protocols to safely open and operate the Childcare Center. If approved, staff will return the week of Aug. 3 to prepare the space, get settled and practice protocols and procedures.

The Center would then open its doors on Aug. 17, contingent upon compliance with the State’s requirements and the ability to secure enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies.

The plan evidences the magnitude of the preparation and the safeguards needed to serve about 32 students in the childcare program during the Covid-19 pandemic. The logistics of providing students in grades K-8 with in-class instruction would likely present even more challenges.

Class Size and Ratios

During the COVID-19 crisis, there will be a maximum of 10 people allowed in a classroom, including adults and children. Specifically, there will be a maximum of 8 children and 2 teachers in a classroom at any given time.

Each classroom will operate in two shifts, and have a morning and an afternoon teaching staff.

Classrooms will maintain stable groups of children at all times. Staff will be limited to working with one group of children. The Childcare Center will designate four staff members daily that meet qualifications as teacher or assistant teachers’ substitutes. Substitutes will be assigned to specific classrooms. In cases of dire emergency, substitutes will be permitted to float between no more than two rooms.

State guidelines require that child care centers have at least 50 square feet per child two-years and older and 55 square feet for infants and toddlers, and that children sleep a minimum of 6 feet apart.

In an effort to adhere to these space guidelines and ensure that children and staff have enough room for playing while physical distancing, the Childcare Center will remove shelving units from the classroom and provide each child with plastic bins of selected toys to use throughout the day.

Wearing Masks

All adults and children two-years of age and older must wear a mask in the Joseph E. Hill building. The mask must cover their nose and mouth. The Childcare Center will provide masks and wash and disinfect cloth masks at the Center.

Children ages two and older will wear masks throughout the day except while eating, brushing their teeth, while outdoors and taking a nap. Masks will be labeled with shapes unique to each child. During activities when children are not wearing masks, teachers must place each child’s mask inside a paper bag labeled with the child’s name as well as the assigned shape on his/her mask.

 Teachers must wear masks, and they must also wear gloves in the classroom. The Managing Director strongly recommends that teaching staff wear face shields while working in the classroom.

A teacher, upon touching a child, must remove and discard gloves, wash hands, and put on a clean pair of gloves in order to avoid cross contamination.

Staff will wash their hands per handwashing procedure every 30 minutes in addition to current handwashing policy. Teachers will have a 10 minute break every 90 minutes for fresh air, if desired.






Drop Off and Pick Up

Each child will be assigned a specific door to use to enter and leave the building. Staff will work with families to develop a staggered drop-off and pick-up schedule to avoid crowding during those times.

There are procedures to disinfect shoes and wash hands when entering the building. A parent must put the Center’s facemask on their child if the child is age 2 or higher. Children, staff, parents, and all other adults will have their temperatures taken with a non-contact infrared thermometer upon arrival to the Center by the Nurse or a designated person. A person with a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be permitted in the Center. In addition, temperature checks will also take place for adults and children after their lunch breaks.

Staff at the Center will also interview the family member and compete a daily in-person health screening for each child. (Every morning, each family must complete an online Wellness Check form, which must be submitted at least 30 minutes before each child’s arrival.)

No adult or child shall be allowed to enter the District 65 Family Center or the Childcare Center if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.  The exclusion shall be a minimum of 10 days after symptom onset. Employees that feel ill shall take the day off and will need a doctor’s note to return to work.

Isolation of children or staff who become sick at the Center

One room at the Childcare Center is designated to be used as the Center’s isolation area for children and staff who become ill while in the Center. When staff become ill at work, he/she shall be sent home immediately. There are separate provisions dealing with situations where a staff member is unable to drive or needs transportation.

Children who become ill at the Childcare Center must be removed from the classroom immediately, and they should be isolated in designated room, with a designated staff member. The room will be equipped with a cot, a bin of disinfected toys, snacks, blankets, and a washable mat.

Parents will be required to pick-up sick children within one hour of being contacted. Under City guidelines, ill persons must be excluded from the Childcare Center for a minimum of 10 days after symptom onset.

General Classroom Requirements

Classroom windows should remain open with a screen to provide fresh air in the classroom. Surfaces of counters and desks should be kept clear of items not being used so they will be easier to clean and disinfect.

Toys— Each child may have their own labeled plastic bin with toys designated for only him or her to play with. Children will be encouraged to play with their own toys; and staff shall follow strict guidelines related to washing and sanitizing the toys and classrooms.

Shoes–Children and teachers will continue to change their shoes upon arrival. Other staff will use the sanitizing shoe mats when entering the Center, and may use shoe covers while indoors.

Mealtimes–Individual meals will be pre-plated in the kitchen and delivered to each classroom. Physical distancing must be maintained. No opened food containers should be placed on the classroom table.

Naptime – Cots and cribs shall be placed 6-feet apart. Children must not wear masks to sleep to prevent suffocation.

Gym and outdoor time

Only one classroom will be allowed in the gym or on the playground at a time. One teacher will stay back to sanitize the gym or playground equipment using bleach water that is prepared daily. Teachers and children do not have to wear masks on the playground. However, teachers should have their mask with them and take proper precautions, at all times.

Swings, slides and gym and other playground equipment must be sanitized after each use. It is suggested that teachers play games with children that limit gathering, and that primary teaching is used.

Toileting – Only one child will be taken to the bathroom at a time. Teachers assisting a child during toileting must sanitize the sink, toilet and door handles between each use. Teacher and child must thoroughly wash their hands using the handwashing protocol.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Hard surfaces such as teacher’s desks and chairs, tables, sinks, toilets, dramatic play areas, and electronics such as ipads must be cleaned and disinfected after each use.

Doorknobs, all cabinet handles in each classroom and all light switches in the classrooms are to be disinfected four times a day throughout the day.

For electronics such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, remove visible contamination if present. Electronics should have wipeable covers if available, and alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol are to be used to disinfect touch screens.

The RoundTable wlll report on the Board’s action tomorrow.



Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...