Administrators are planning a July 1 reopening for the ECE Lab School, with precautions to meet California COVID-19 guidelines for childcare facilities.

SAN MARCOS — After more than two months of vacancy, the administrators and staff of Palomar College’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Lab School are making plans to reopen the San Marcos facility in observance of California’s phased reopening procedures.

The school serves the community at large as well as Palomar’s students and employees. Under the current reopening plan, administrators and teachers will return to the Lab School on June 15, with the first children following on July 1.

“Reopening the Lab School is another step in resuming the many services Palomar College provides in the greater North County community,” said Acting Superintendent/President Dr. Jack Kahn. “We’re looking forward to welcoming our youngest students back in a safe, educational environment.”

Located near the W. Borden Road entrance to the San Marcos campus, the Lab School serves children from infancy through age 5, and normal class sizes average 16 kids per room.

By limiting classes to 10 children and maintaining strict separation between groups, in addition to frequent cleaning throughout the day, the ECE Lab School may resume operations, said Diane Studinka, a Child Development professor and Lab School liaison.

“Our main purpose is to reopen for essential workers—to ensure that they have high-quality childcare and preschool services during this time,” said Studinka. “We have to maintain ratios of 10 children per classroom, so we’re going to be operating at around 60 to 70 children, at the most, during our initial phase.”

Under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 requirements, childcare providers like the ECE Lab School were not required to close during the stay-at-home order, in order to continue serving families of essential workers. Palomar temporarily closed its Early Childhood center and is now reopening it under Newsom’s phased plan to aid families in the region, as permitted by federal, state and local health guidelines.

The following are several of the guidelines that the Lab School, like other childcare facilities in California, will follow to reopen in alignment with state requirements:

  • Children cannot commingle within the facility, which means that no two groups can occupy the playground at the same time, and each class is with the same teachers and kids every day, all week long;
  • College staff must perform ongoing cleaning and sanitizing throughout the day, with two custodians assigned to the site during daytime hours;
  • Only one family will be allowed in the lobby at a time;
  • Mandatory daily health checks will be provided for the staff and children upon entry.

Under normal circumstances, Studinka said, “The ECE Lab School also provides opportunities for Palomar’s Child Development program students, and others on campus, to get hands-on laboratory experience with young children. But during this time, we’re not going to be able to offer the observation and the practicum elements at the Lab School until the college begins face-to-face coursework for students.”

Typically, the Lab School would employ 40 to 50 staff, but at reopening will have about half of that number on site. Studinka said parents are currently being surveyed to determine interest in returning.

“Once we get back on site, we’ll get the families who really do want to come back immediately enrolled first,” she said. “But not everybody feels comfortable sending their child right now, and that’s completely understandable. We’re going to be in continual contact with those families, to make sure they know they’re still part of our program, if they want to come back in the future.”