There are plenty of good stories to be told, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most businesses, Kiddie Academy® Educational Child Care has certainly felt the impact. Almost every Academy, whether it’s stayed open or temporarily closed has been affected to some degree. But even with doors closed, Academies have persisted and found novel ways to stay engaged with families, serve their communities and cultivate future customers. While almost every Academy can point to some uplifting example of how they’ve kept eyes forward during the pandemic, we wanted to highlight a few representative stories for you.
In California, parents from several Academies organized drive-by parades after the traditional Teacher Appreciation Day celebrations had been cancelled due to the pandemic. The Kiddie Academies of Vacaville, Oakley, Livermore and Brentwood had been open during the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for the children of essential workers in their communities. On Teacher Appreciation Day, the drive-bys provided teachers with a welcome, although socially distanced, reunion with their other students who had been isolating at home. The Vacaville parade was covered by local media. Vacaville Academy Director Melissa McMillin was quoted in the story, saying, “I love it. I haven’t seen some of these guys in over a month. We miss them.”
A temporary coronavirus shutdown and social distancing scuttled the original plan to celebrate Kiddie Academy of Hillsborough, New Jersey’s two-year anniversary on May 14. However, the staff came up with an alternate way to celebrate the event with students and families. They hosted a drive-by parade in the Academy parking lot, with teachers lined up six feet apart, wearing masks and gloves. This allowed children and families to drive by and share in the celebration. Each family in attendance was presented with a “Kiddie Academy Swag Bag,” full of activities and resources to help the kids and families stay connected. Very popular among the items in the bag were the Academy’s own version of “Flat Stanley,” where teachers put their photos on popsicle sticks so students can feel connected to their teachers while they’re isolating at home. The Hillsborough staff has also stepped up to help frontline workers in the community by making medical-grade masks. Teachers made fun and creative masks that were sent to Einstein Medical Center in Montgomery, Pennsylvania where they were distributed to the entire maternity and pediatric floor.
Kiddie Academies of Seattle at Queen Anne and Bellevue, Washington, remained open with no restrictions on who they can serve. But co-Franchisee Rimmi Josan said getting prospective families to come to the Academies was challenging. Because Seattle was one of the first hotspots for the coronavirus, she said parents were reluctant to do in-person tours. “We started with one-on-one tours with parents during the week and those went well. Then we decided to take it a step further and host a virtual open house for the Seattle Academy on the weekend, when parents had more flexibility with their time.”
They held their first open house on May 2 at Kiddie Academy of Seattle at Queen Anne. The had three 45-minute tours, hosted by the Director or Assistant Director, with each one having three to five families on it. “We used Zoom for the open house. We used screen share to show a professionally produced virtual tour video of the Academy. That let families see the facility.
Also, compared with the one-on-one tours, there was definitely more engagement as parents were learning from each other and hearing what questions families ask.” Rimmi said they had 14 families for the Seattle open house, with one enrollment that day and two others pending. Two weeks later, they held the virtual open house for Bellevue. Five families participated in that open house, which resulted in two enrollments. Rimmi said the feedback has been very positive. “Parents understand what’s going on. This is not a normal time, but they still have to plan for their children’s care. They’re very willing to embrace the technology.”
At Kiddie Academy of Robbinsville in New Jersey, Franchisees Amie and Bhavesh Desai worked out a flexible arrangement that allowed Director Bonnie Spinelli to work from home so that she could avoid transmitting the coronavirus to her two elderly parents with whom she lives. Bonnie used the Virtual Tour Guide as a resource as she worked the phones to follow up on leads with prospective families. Recently, she enrolled a family with two small children having only spoken to the parent over the phone. She made the parent feel so safe and comfortable with the procedures Kiddie Academy of Robbinsville had in place that they enrolled in the Academy sight-unseen.
Kiddie Academy of Rochester Hills, Michigan, put its own spin on the virtual tour concept. They did one for students while temporarily closed by a stay-at-home order. Director Jennifer Maddock said that even though they were doing bi-weekly Zoom story times, the children missed being at the Academy. Jennifer said the staff decided to produce a virtual video tour just for the students. “The video took the children from room to room through the Academy and then surprised them at the end with special messages from each staff member.”
In Missouri, the Kiddie Academies of Chesterfield, Des Peres and O’Fallon were featured in a paid-content story that ran in St. Louis Magazine. The article, “The World has changed and so has Kiddie Academy: How COVID has changed childcare and early learning,” highlighted the enhancements to health and safety practices that have been enacted at the Academies.
“Safety is clearly parents’ number-one concern,” explained Franchisee Tom Keller. “Everything that we’re doing – taking temperatures twice a day, more handwashing, escorting children to classrooms and bringing them to parents at pickup, using a professional cleaning team and disinfecting 12 hours each night – are all integral changes that parents say are appreciated.”
Tom said the St. Louis Magazine piece was an important part of the media mix they use for advertising and marketing. “Our use of that magazine is beneficial to building our brand based on the reputation it has in our community.”
The three Academies have remained open throughout the pandemic, although some families have chosen to stay home. Now that more parents are starting to return to work, the article was a timely way to let them know that the Academies have upped their game to help ensure the health and safety of their children. “Admittedly, many of those who are sending children back to child care are slowly easing into it. Whether they see these practices as being for the benefit of the child, the parent, the reduced exposure, all are legitimate concerns based on what’s most important to each family. The story was a great way to let them know about some positive changes that have come from these difficult times.”
When parents are inspired to take the time to publicly say nice things about your Academy, it means you’re delivering on what matters most to them. We wanted to share with you some positive reviews that some very satisfied customers recently posted on Yelp.
In all three cases, the Academies were praised for their service during the pandemic. However, the praise went well beyond the response to COVID-19. These parents commended the Academies for consistent hard work, frequent and thorough communication and an approach to teaching that is tailored to the way each child learns best. The reviews provide wonderful insights into what parents feel is important to them.
In New Mexico, parent Dominic Sallas commended Kiddie Academy of North Albuquerque for rising to the challenge presented by the pandemic and supporting area essential workers. He wrote, “They were at the forefront of implementing the appropriate safety measures that allowed them to protect their staff and the kids. This type of support and safety gave us the confidence that our child was in good hands.” He went on to say, “The Kiddie Academy administration has been exceptional. They send out timely announcements helping us to keep up to date with upcoming events, changes, updates, etc. The staff has been great at sending multiple daily updates about our child, including pictures of their daily activities and a daily summary at the end. Staying up to date with our child’s day has allowed us to track what they’re learning and the progress they’re making.”
Our thanks and admiration go out to these Academies and all the rest that continue to inspire us with their resiliency, creativity and commitment to the Kiddie Academy mission!
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