The COVID-19 pandemic had profound consequences worldwide. Thousands of families lost loved ones. Children did not attend school. Businesses closed and business owners lost their livelihoods. People were isolated in their homes, including separation from extended family members. Grandparents could no longer hug their grandchildren. Office buildings became empty and people worked remotely from home without the camaraderie of a business work group and the informal interpersonal contacts that occur. Restaurants and entertainment venues closed.
At the other end of the spectrum were those who worked in essential services. Clearly, medical professionals were stretched to their limits and beyond, both physically and emotionally. Essential workers such a law enforcement, fire fighters and emergency medical personnel, municipal employees, delivery drivers, transportation services, etc. masked up and continued to provide services. That is IF they had childcare available. Many childcare centers closed. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our childcare staff and financial support in the form of grants and loans from local, state and federal sources, James’ Place was able to remain open through the COVID crisis and provide needed childcare to parents who worked in essential services.
COVID precautions were incorporated into an updated policy and procedures manual and all the community programs in which James’ Place Kids participated were curtailed. This was a necessary precaution that had to be taken, but was a sorely missed element of the James’ Place culture. Now, we are delighted to be able to once again participate in community events in the downtown Bellingham core. Our students can once again attend Story Hour at the Bellingham Public Library, take walking field trips around the downtown area, participate in the Downtown Merchants Trick or Treat program and have specialists come into our classes. Most recently we added a dance program in our preschool and toddler classes with a Children’s Dance specialist.
It is our belief that living and experiencing life is a powerful tool for children to learn about their world. In addition to the event itself, while on the outing, the children learn to follow directions, and how to travel with a group of peers and chaperones. Additionally they learns skills such as how to cross streets safely at a crosswalk and begin to recognize Bellingham landmarks such as the Mt. Baker Theater and the Bellingham Library. Visiting sites around the downtown area gives the children and staff something to look forward to and a break from the daily classroom routines. Children, staff and parents are all delighted that we are taking steps toward returning to whatever the new ‘normal’ is post COVID.