Q. Please tell us what you do.
A. I have been the Executive Director at the Mt. Olive Child Care & Learning Center since July 1982. After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Correction and Spanish from Rutgers University, I pursued my Master of Arts Degree from Kean University in Early Childhood Education and also became a Certified Nursery School Teacher. I have experience teaching children from Infants through School Age.
Q. What has changed and what have you been able to continue to do since the start of the coronavirus crisis?
A. Even though child care services were shut down, we applied to be an emergency child care center and were approved by the state to provide service to children of essential workers. Now, we greet all families at the door, take temperatures and ask parents to sign off on a health questionnaire every day. Only staff and children are allowed inside. Class sizes and the types of playthings are limited, and everything is cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected frequently. Social distancing is a challenge with children; we do the best we can and know that we need to hold babies in our arms. Breakfast and snacks are provided and parents bring their child’s lunch in a paper bag.
Q. Have you been able to use technology as a substitute for any of your on-site or in-person services?
A. We use GoToMeeting for our Parent Education and Empowerment Program. This is an intensive and individualized weekly program for parents which provides parenting strategies and enables parents to better understand and cope effectively with their children’s behavior. We normally have these classes in person, but are now doing remotely.
Q. Tell us about your staff.
A. Our staff has been terrific. We all wear masks and use disposable gloves and smocks when we are caring for babies. Lisa Brett, the Assistant to Mayor Greenbaum, was very helpful in getting us enough masks to use. The typical routine for staff upon returning home is now shower first, then hug our loved ones. As the number of children we are able to care for has dropped significantly after mid-March due to COVID-19, we needed to reduce hours for our staff accordingly. Fortunately, at this point, the number of children is increasing and we have been able to bring some staff back.
Q. What needs to be done now by Governor Murphy and the state?
A. Governor Murphy recognizes child care is a critical essential service and the state allocated funds to provide for free child care for essential workers for April through June. The Center will be able to remain open under new normal guidelines on June 15th, including restrictions on class size, which will put financial pressure on our Center. Our mission is to provide service to families regardless of income, so the on-going level of funding provided by the state will be critical.
Q. What else would you like people to know about you or the Mt. Olive Child Care & Learning Center?
A. The center is a non-profit charity and has served children and families for 44 years. We have served many parents who have trusted us to care for multiple children in their families. With the support of our staff and families, we have adapted to the current environment. We are looking to adapt further this Summer as facilities such as the Hackettstown pool will likely be closed for some period of time.
This interview was conducted by Andy Meissner on June 1st. We thank Gail Reuther for sharing her story and for the many years of service to the families of Mount Olive.