Community Engagement Faculty and Staff Features HDFS

Doing hard things is second nature when students’ education is on the line

Thanks to parents, preschoolers, and OSU students and staff, the OSU Child Development Center kept the doors open and survived an unprecedented year of service delivery in person.

By Kathryn Stroppel

Not everyone at Oregon State University worked from home during the pandemic. Thanks to parents, preschoolers, and OSU students and staff, the OSU Child Development Center kept the doors open and survived an unprecedented year of service delivery in person.  

“I was in a special education transition meeting last week, and the special education teacher was so pleased to receive information from a teacher who had actually spent time in the classroom with the student and could offer concrete examples of how to help this child transition into kindergarten,” says Jacquie Keller, family services coordinator. “Our parents haven’t complained once. They’ve stood outside rain or shine, holding their children’s hands, with masks on, going through our morning Covid screenings.”   

Teachers navigated extra transitions for handwashing and sanitizing and modeled a do-what-it-takes approach to respond, accommodate and continue to teach children and families. Health and nutrition coordinator, Dana Crawford, led the team through challenging Covid rules and regulations from the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority. 

When families arrive, they line up socially distanced and are asked a series of questions related to Covid. If they pass, they give the child a card with colors, letters and shapes to incorporate a teachable moment. 

After passing the first round, children then take their card to a tent and put it in a bucket so that Dana can take their temperature. If within a normal range, the child gets hand sanitizer and a mask if they forgot theirs at home.

“There were lots of moving pieces, and staff did an amazing job,” says Director Kathleen McDonnell. “Teachers created weekly packets for at-home children, in addition to providing instruction. It was a huge job. The families who transitioned from remote to in-person did so because they realized what a fantastic job the team was doing to keep everyone safe. I could go on for days singing the staff’s praises!” 

The center currently serves 57 families, with three served remotely. Children attend two days each week, Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays, and Wednesdays are scheduled for sanitizing, meetings, preparation and trainings. At the beginning of the school year, the center served eight families remotely, five of whom decided to attend in person during the school year.   

This small-but-mighty staff of 10, including six teachers, one director, one health and nutrition coordinator, one family services coordinator, and one family advocate, also served 58 OSU students as part of their HDFS 430 internship. Of the 58 students, four completed their experience remotely thanks to instruction from Kathleen.   

Jacquie, as part of her family services outreach, served families remotely along with Olga Martinez-Alvarez, offering food, diapers, hygiene products and clothing to families in need. They’ve also offered support and connections to needed resources. 

“We’re typically not ones to toot our own horns,” Jacquie says, “but I sure am proud to work with this remarkable team.”