Photo gallery: How a Colorado mobile preschool program shifted gears when coronavirus hit

Ann Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado
Apr 29, 12:00pm MDT

When Colorado schools closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, so did El Busesito Preschool — the mobile preschool program that relies on three converted buses to serve 3- and 4-year-olds in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Leaders at Valley Settlement, which runs the mobile preschool and other programs for immigrant families, quickly connected with parents to find out what they needed. Many were concerned about lost jobs and income, but plenty also wondered how to keep their kids learning at home.

Staff and volunteers quickly hatched a plan so preschool activities could continue — albeit in an altered form. They decided to use WhatsApp to connect with families and began sending six videos a week, featuring storytime, or activities like cooking, art, or yoga. They also started weekly deliveries of learning packets and supplies to the homes of all 96 preschoolers spread across Garfield and Eagle counties.

Earlier this month, six preschool teachers drove around the valley, dropping off bags stuffed with crayons, paint, chalk, construction paper, books, puzzles, buckets, and balls. In the interest of social distancing, they often left the colorful activity bags on front porches without an official hello, said Faridhe Rodriguez, a preschool teacher and director of the mobile preschool program.

But some children spotted their teachers and turned into hug missiles that couldn’t be stopped.

“It’s hard to say no to someone who’s running toward you and is super excited to see you,” Rodriguez said.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.