(JACKSON, Miss.) — The Lottie W. Thornton Early Childhood Center at Jackson State University is making the best of staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, the center hosted a “Spread Love, Not Germs” parade for their preschoolers.
Kanesha Bennett, director of the center, and teachers, Deja Johnson and Tameka Norman Moses drove door-to-door and surprised students with goody bags, printed workbook packets and posters.
“It was critical for us to assist our families because becoming an (at-home) preschool teacher overnight is not an easy task,” said Bennett. “Creating a home-learning schedule, hosting morning Zoom calls, challenging families to scavenger hunts and various hands-on activities are just a few other things we’ve done to help support our parents.”
In early March, the childhood center transitioned to online learning in alignment with the University’s safety guidelines.
The center typically boasts an enrollment of 20 students, ages 3-5, whose parents work at or attend JSU or live in the surrounding community.
Bennett explained that preschoolers do not easily understand current circumstances surrounding the temporary closure of the center. However, the absence of friends, teachers and their school building is something the children will miss.
“Helping them make sense of the world around them has become a daily charge. As the newly adopted Jackson State mantra says, ‘tough times don’t last, tough people do,’” said Bennett, referring to the messaging in an inspirational video called JSUStrong produced by University Communications.
“Preschool is where memories are made, and milestones are achieved. While the academics are important, the social and emotional well-being of our students is paramount,” she said.
Tierra Flowers, whose child attends the center, was pleased that the center hosted the parade. Flowers said that children thrive best with structure and socialization. “Most parents chose Lottie Thornton because of the established routines for our children and families,” said Flowers. “With the closure, it has disrupted our normal structure and has forced parents to assume the role of the childcare center.
Although she fully understands that safety and well-being is the priority, Flowers said she wants others to know that the childcare center is essential to parents and families due to the structure that it provides.
Despite the temporary closure, finding innovative ways to assist students is not new to Bennett or her staff. “The Lottie Thornton Early Childhood Center will continue to carry out its mission to provide a high-quality early childhood learning environment that will foster growth, development and early learning in young children. We are Tiger Strong.”