For the last eight months children living on post at Yuma Proving Ground have been reunited in the classroom with their favorite teachers and staff in Child and Youth Services (CYS). COVID-19 shutdowns occurred sporadically throughout most of 2020 impacting School Age Care (SAC), School Age Services (SAS), and the Middle School Teen (MST).
“When the kids were able to come back in the building they just looked older,” said Theresa Robinson, the Director for the Child Development Center (CDC). “They have gotten taller, those that were learning how to talk, they were speaking clearly, those that still couldn’t walk were running, the teachers were extremely happy to see that.”
Prior to COVID-19 there were about 45 kids enrolled at the CDC, which can range in ages from infants to five-year-old's. Robinson said the facility is only seeing about 30 kids. “That has been the norm for about eight months or so.”
While there are fewer children, there is also fewer staff. “We have lost staff along the way but not because of COVID though,” Robinson said.
With staff being shorthanded managers have stepped up to take on more responsibilities like watching the children or jumping into the kitchen.
“My assistant director, he has really stepped to the plate, he has been covering the kitchen. He has taken the initiative on his own, and when he sees that somebody is out, he immediately goes into the classroom,” Robinson explained. “The staff has been amazing through the whole thing and they still come to work with a smile on their faces.”
Melissa Anderson is the Director of Youth Services. They oversee SAC, SAS, and MST. Those include kindergarteners up to 18-year-olds.
Before the pandemic there were 32 kids enrolled with Youth Services (YS). Now, with MST closed due to staffing concerns, there are 13 kids enrolled in YS. However, 15 are registered with MST.
When YS reopened its doors Anderson recalls the youth being relieved for some “normalcy’ and to see more of their classmates in person as opposed to virtually.
“Everybody missed each other, everyone needed each other,” Robinson said.
Amid the shutdowns last year staff would meet every day over the phone to check on everyone, conduct trainings, lesson plan, and take part in team building exercises.
However, nothing felt better than when teachers and staff could reunite with the children. “when they saw each other for the first time it was tears of joy and lots of hugs. It was awesome, it was a beautiful thing to see,” Robinson shared.