April 27, 2020
Kelli McCalley is the president of Small Miracles ECE Early Learning Centers with nine locations in Tucson, and two in Phoenix. AzAEYC spoke with her and two of her center directors, Jimile Weber of Open Arms Preschool and Lakisha Prewitt of Old Spanish Trail via video conferencing on April 9, 2020.
During the Week of the Young Child™ 2020, AzAEYC shared stories about how life has changed for early education programs and educators during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. This series of videos with Small Miracles ECE team members covers several pertinent issues that Arizona early learning centers face during the pandemic.
Staying open for first responder families
“In all of this, we’re staying open for essential workers and any other families that need us at this time,” said Kelli McCalley. Staying open has not been easy, but the Small Miracles ECE team say they share strong commitment to support the first responders who need a safe and welcoming place for their children while they are at work.
Caring for children during COVID-19
Small Miracles ECE also cares for some of the older children of essential workers, ages K-3. For Lakisha Prewitt, Director of Old Spanish Trail Preschool, that means reconfiguring the days to include regular school assignments.
Jimile Weber, Director of Open Arms Preschool, said that although it is challenging, they are trying to make it work. “We’re just all trying to go on this ride together right now.”
“Right now, we’re working together as a community to stay open,” said Kelli McCalley. “I don’t think I could sleep at night if I had to lay off 200 people – that means [including their families] that 800 to 1,000 people may not be able to eat.”
Child care is essential
“One of our parents is a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital. She has no family here – her husband is in the military and he’s deployed. It’s just her. So I feel that we are important.” Lakisha Prewitt, director of Old Spanish Trail preschool.
“I want to thank everyone out there who is doing so much [on the front lines] for us. But they forget child care.” Jimile Weber, Director, Open Arms Preschool.
What can we learn about Child Care from COVID-19?
“We are not daycare. We are a preschool. We learn. We don’t take care of the day. We teach. – Lakisha Prewitt, Director, Old Spanish Trail Preschool
“Their brains grow so much in the first years. We’re here to teach them. We’re not a daycare. Jimile Weber, Director, Open Arms Preschool
“Our teachers are minimum wage earners. They can have an associates degree, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree but they’re not making nearly what K-12 teachers make. But as more research comes out, the more we talk about it… maybe we needed a horrible disaster for people to understand how important we are.”