North Campus Children’s Center goes virtual: Serving young children in a pandemic

At the beginning of the pandemic, like many other organizations and institutions, the San Jacinto College North Campus Children’s Center Lab School was left to come up with solutions to continue to serve its population remotely.

“We serve 75 children and their families during a full enrollment period,” said Bethany Stansell, children’s center director. “In March, we were suddenly left to figure out how we were going to stay in touch with our students and keep them engaged.”

At that time, many centers across the country were closing their doors and being forced to cut down on their labor costs. Fortunately, the North Children’s Center remained fully staffed and got to work to create a virtual learning environment for the children who were in their care.

“Within a week of closing, we scheduled our first virtual event,” Stansell said. “We had a virtual center-wide picnic, where the students could interact with their friends and teachers. We had to reinvent the whole experience.”

The plan to host virtual learning days started at twice a week, but parental and student demand quickly drove the numbers up to four times a week.

“The parents and children were wanting to go online every day, and we tried to accommodate them as much as possible,” Stansell said. “Our staff was missing them as much as they were missing us, and we wanted to continue the education that we provide.”

The center staff, who all hold associate degrees, learned quickly about virtual learning and using meeting software like Zoom. The center hosted story times, math and science days, sing-a-longs, family picnics, color days, and small breakout sessions for the students and teachers to visit together.

“I’m so proud of my staff and how quickly and successfully they were able to pull the virtual school together,” Stansell said. “It was their idea in the beginning, and they truly did a wonderful job.”

The San Jacinto College North Campus Children’s Center Lab School is accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and recognized as a 4-Star Texas Rising Star provider and is a participant in the Texas School Ready Project. The center serves children from six weeks old to pre-kindergarten age.

“We teach children to become independent and confident,” Stansell said. “Under our care, they learn to feed and groom themselves and become potty-trained. In the pre-k classes students will learn to write their names and to identify 25 or more words. They leave kindergarten-ready.” 

Enrollment in the center is open to the public. However, due to restrictions under COVID-19, the center is currently enrolling only children of current San Jacinto College students, staff, and faculty. To learn more about the center, visit sanjac.edu/child-care.