The St. Jerome Child Center in Hyattsville, Maryland, one of the eight Early Childhood Learning Centers within the Archdiocese of Washington, has reopened its doors since its closing in March, welcoming families and their children for socially-distant and safe child care.

As restrictions are lifted in Washington and the surrounding Maryland counties and businesses begin to open, families seeking childcare and early childhood education for their children expressed the need for their Early Childhood Learning Centers to reopen as parents return to work.

The Archdiocese of Washington worked closely with the directors of the Early Childhood Learning Centers to find a safe way for the centers to reopen and for children to gather – even at a safe distance.

“We were trying to make sure we were balancing all the important things of safety and regulations and working with the (Maryland State Department of Education’s) Early Learning Division just to make sure we were covering all of our bases,” said Christina Mendez-Hall, assistant superintendent for Catholic identity and accreditation of the Archdiocese of Washington's Catholic Schools Office.

Throughout the months where Early Childhood Learning Centers within the Archdiocese of Washington were closed, centers like the St. Jerome Child Center, provided at-home support for parents and their children, Roshon Casey, director of early childhood programs for the Archdiocese of Washington, said.

“We did support our families and children that were enrolled by providing support activities and videos, and things that they can do at home with their parents,” Casey said.

In order to encourage social distancing among the children at St. Jerome, students brought in towels for sitting on, creating a special space for them to participate in activities but at a safe distance from others.

“We’re using a lot of ideas to make sure that the kids are socially distanced, and making it fun for them,” Casey said. “Even though we’re social distancing, even though we can’t hug our friends, there are a lot of other ways that we can show connectedness with each other – and I think that they are definitely doing that.”

Of the eight Early Childhood Learning Centers within the archdiocese, four operate year-round and four run throughout the school year. St. Margaret of Scotland Early Learning Center in Seat Pleasant and St. Andrew Apostle Early Learning Center in Silver Spring will both open later in July.

“I think it’s highly important that our centers are opening because we provide such a great service to our community,” said Casey, who added this is happening “now that our centers are able to reopen and reopen safely for our staff, for the families and for their children. I am happy that we have centers that are able to do that.”

Mendez-Hall said she was excited that the Early Learning Centers were able to find a safe way to reopen so that they can continue sharing the Gospel with children.

“It’s almost like a sign of a return to a semblance of normalcy,” she said. “We’re finally getting out there safely and with many different protocols in place, but we’re getting back to the education of children and the care of our kids and being able to share the Gospel message… We’re evangelizing again.”