Preschoolers’ parent and teacher/director perceptions of returning to early childcare education during the COVID-19 pandemic

Meg Bruening, Camila Nadalet, Nathan Ashok, Bin C. Suh, Rebecca E. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Early Care and Education (ECE) sites are critical hubs for social, emotional, and physical learning development of preschool children (ages 3–5). The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted ECE enrollment and participation; until June 2022, preschool children in the US were ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines. It is critical to identify perceptions of teachers/directors and parents to enhance safe return-to-school efforts. Methods: Focus groups (n = 7; 22 participants) were conducted with ECE teachers/directors throughout Arizona to examine perceptions of COVID-19 testing for families and staff at ECE sites, and current and possible COVID-19 mitigation strategies during Summer 2021. Preschool parents from underserved families in Phoenix (n = 41) completed a brief survey on their perceptions of benefits of ECE for themselves and their children, thoughts on COVID-19 mitigation strategies, and timing for safe return to school during Spring 2021. Focus groups were transcribed and analyzed for themes using constant comparison. Results: There were 4 focus group themes: 1) perceptions of saliva-based COVID-19 testing, 2) logistical strategies for COVID-19 testing at ECE sites; 3) successes and challenges with current COVID-19 mitigation strategies; 4) ideas to support improved COVID-19 mitigation, including outdoor gardening. Parents rated peace of mind about the child’s education as the most important benefit for themselves of in-person ECE (74.6%), and social development for children as the most important benefit for their children (54.4%). Over 40% of parents reported it would not be safe to send children back until 2022. Conclusions: COVID-19 continues to impact attendance at ECE sites, despite parents reporting key benefits to attending ECE sites. Teachers/directors supported COVID-19 mitigation strategies including saliva-based testing and gardening education to improve safe return to schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2270
JournalBMC public health
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Perceptions
  • Preschool

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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