Your Child's Health and Safety: Our First Priority Since 1995
Since Odyssey opened its doors in 1995, the health and safety of our children and staff has been our top priority because we know that we can’t be a great school where our children learn, grow and thrive without first satisfying that fundamental obligation.
However, since concerns surrounding COVID-19 surfaced in early 2020, we have consistently stayed informed of CDC and Health Department guidelines, regulations and protocols. For more information and resources on COVID-19, please visit the CDC Coronavirus Page.
Within this new environment, it is important to address Odyssey’s existing and updated health and safety practices and to directly address some questions that we know many of our parents and staff will have.
Existing Health and Safety Practices
When COVID-19 forced the Health Department to close every daycare in Alabama in March 2020, Odyssey’s leadership team took advantage of that closure to undertake a thorough review of our overall approach to health and safety in our schools.
We learned that our existing emphasis on health and safety meant that we already were doing many of the recommended steps related to containing COVID-19, including:
- Strict adherence to our long-standing policy that children or staff with respiratory illness symptoms or a fever of 100.4 degrees or more must stay home until they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of any medication. As noted below, however, during the COVID crisis, we are increasing the required fever-free period to 72 hours.
- Frequent handwashing
- Frequent disinfecting and sanitizing of commonly used toys and high-contact surfaces
- All outdoor playgrounds are limited to a single class at any time
- Consistent health and safety training protocols for all staff and administrators, including first aid and CPR certification for all staff
- And, all Odyssey ratios are well below state child-to-teacher ratio requirements
But, just because we already were taking so many steps to protect the health and safety of our children and staff didn’t mean that there wasn’t room for improvement in our effort to provide the safest possible environment during the COVID-19 crisis, so we have taken even further action in this regard.
Enhanced Health and Safety Protocols
During this time of elevated concern, Odyssey has taken great care to ensure that our health and safety protocols align with CDC, state and local guidelines. We continue to consult with experts and to monitor updated guidance measures to ensure our protocols are consistent with the latest COVID-19 information.
Out of our desire to provide a healthy, safe environment for our staff and families, and subject to federal, state and local guidelines, Odyssey has introduced Enhanced Health and Safety Protocols that include:
Odyssey’s pledge is to actively communicate with all parents and staff whenever there is a confirmed positive COVID result in the school and to clearly define all steps taken to address each particular occurrence. Throughout this Crisis, Odyssey leadership will provide regular updates regarding our management of this situation and of anything in our schools that might affect our staff and our families.
Odyssey has required all staff to wear masks at all times since our COVID re-opening and has applied the latest data regarding mask effectiveness to require all parents to wear masks whenever on Odyssey property.
Our staff perform a temperature check on every teacher and child using a Non-Contact Thermometer before they are allowed in the school and, if any child has over a 99-degree temperature, their temperature is checked again throughout the day.
As mentioned above, children and staff experiencing respiratory illness symptoms or a fever above 100.4 degrees will be required to stay home until they have been fever-free for 72 hours without the aid of any medication.
Odyssey has temporarily eliminated the use of common/shared computer and door check-in devices to prevent the common touching of those surfaces.
Odyssey has reevaluated its early morning and late afternoon classroom groupings and has restricted those to no more than two combined rooms at the extreme ends of the day.
Increased Hand Washing
While already a strong component of our health and safety protocols, hand washing is perhaps the number one thing that can be done to effectively restrict the spread of COVID. We have implemented enhanced procedures to dramatically increase hand washing by all children and staff, including a required occurrence immediately upon each child’s arrival at school.
Increased Playground Cleaning
While Odyssey’s outdoor play areas always have been restricted to a single class at any one time, we are also now spray disinfecting each play area after use by each class and following the recommended “dwell times” required to kill the virus between each area’s use by different classes.
Our children are so young that it is impossible to maintain consistent social distancing throughout the day. However, we have trained our staff to employ even more activities throughout the day in an effort to keep the number of children participating in any one activity to the smallest size possible.
Adults on Campus
This was one of the policy changes with which we struggled the most, as we have always taken great pride in the extent of our open-door approach given to our parents and the thoroughness of tours given to visitors considering enrolling their child at our schools. Nonetheless, we believe that these uncertain times demand that we change our drop-off and pick-up procedures in an effort to dramatically limit our parent presence in our schools.
Accordingly, all parent drop-offs and pick-ups during the busiest early-morning drop-off and late-afternoon pick-up will be made at the outside classroom door in each room so as to minimize the number of people in our schools and to protect our staff to the greatest extent possible. For those families dropping off or picking up in the middle of the day, parents are asked to call ahead and an administrative team member will meet the family at the front door and escort the child directly to or from the classroom.
Similarly, families considering enrolling their child at Odyssey will be given a very limited experience that won’t include in-room observations, but we will take additional steps to introduce families considering Odyssey to their child’s staff while maintaining appropriate social distancing protocols.
Odyssey always has had a rigorous cleaning protocol, being one of the few daycares anywhere to employ a dedicated janitorial staff that cleans the entire school and disinfects all bathrooms and common areas every night. During the COVID crisis, however, we’ve worked with them to develop an enhanced cleaning and disinfecting program that includes increased spraying and fogging of the entire facility.
Specific Questions Related to Odyssey's Management of COVID-19
Odyssey knows that there are many questions about providing your child with a safe, effective and engaging learning environment in these uncertain times. We are providing this list of likely questions and answers in an effort to provide advance input without the benefit of knowing the particular circumstances under which the questions might arise. So, please accept this information with that understanding and please don’t hesitate to reach out to your school’s administrative team or to Bob Mitchell with specific questions or for additional detail.
Will Odyssey close due to a general COVID-19 outbreak in the Greater Birmingham Area?
As an essential business, Odyssey’s schools will remain open unless required to close by an authorized government agency. It is our intent to continue to support the need for both our parents and our staff to work and to earn a living for their families.
Will Odyssey maintain its normal operating hours?
Odyssey fully intends to maintain its regular 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM hours at all times when our schools are authorized to be open. That said, if there were a COVID occurrence in one of our classrooms, we are required to quarantine those staff for fourteen days which could create a staffing scenario, after consideration of every single possible solution, in which the affected classroom might need to operate under shortened hours for a brief period.
What if I think I, my child or someone with whom I’ve had prolonged close contact has COVID-19?
This is one of the more difficult questions to fully and appropriately address, as the standards surrounding the issue of who, when and for how long a quarantine should occur have been the subject of persistent change over the course of this health crisis.
What has been consistent, however, is that your first step always should be to consult your primary care physician or an urgent care clinic. If experiencing or exposed to fever, cough, shortness of breath and/or other COVID symptoms, Odyssey staff and customers are obligated to inform our administrative team so that we can make joint decisions in the best interest of everyone in the Odyssey family and our pledge is to openly and fully communicate with the entire Odyssey family so that everyone at our schools will have the information needed to make whatever decision they believe is in their own best interest.
What is Odyssey doing to implement social distancing in schools?
It is certainly difficult to keep such young children apart consistently. But, even during the COVID crisis, Odyssey believes in fostering a positive bond between our children and staff that comes through maintaining a nurturing environment. So, Odyssey is doing everything reasonably possible to limit the frequency with which our children and adults come into prolonged direct contact by increasing the space between children at classroom tables and on cots, reducing child and staff movement throughout the school (especially in common spaces), eliminating the use of third-party services (e.g., dance and gymnastics) and eliminating non-essential visitors to the school.