The article “Preschool teachers deal with higher COVID risk, overwork for low pay” by Carson TerBush should serve as an example of irresponsible, sensationalized journalism. It is contradictory and inaccurate, and it insults an institution whose teachers and staff have worked tirelessly to keep children safe during a pandemic while painting a false picture of an exceptional preschool.
Hoosier Courts Nursery School is a Level 4 Paths to Quality program – the highest early childcare center ranking in the State of Indiana. According to the website explaining this accreditation, “Level 4 programs are the highest rated programs and have demonstrated a commitment to the highest level of professionalism in high quality childcare — achievement of a nationally recognized accreditation. Level 4 programs are managed by a provider or director who has volunteered to provide mentoring to others in the field.”
This is no small feat, and the program at HCNS has allowed more than 60 IU-affiliated parents to work at their jobs or go to school because they have safe, reliable, high-quality childcare.
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The article misrepresents what are actually normal behaviors for young children and fails to mention that the center has rules and policies that are routinely enforced to ensure the safety of children and staff.
For example, the author, who does not have a degree in early childhood education and who has never visited the school during business hours, claims that the “herd of scurrying preschoolers ... appear to truly be in charge.” The author makes this statement without having any direct observations or knowledge of how HCNS classrooms operate.
The author also writes that children “can grab books off shelves, plink notes on the piano, ride tricycles, play in the mud, pretend to be a princess, throw things over the fence, poke other kids, refuse to share, attempt to escape and scream at their leisure,” as if all these activities are negative ones. This sentence, in which not all listed items match the same condition, makes claims that are blatantly untrue. Throwing toys over the fence, for example, is against the rules. If a child purposely attempts to hurt another there are consequences.
Children do not go missing from HCNS. They do not escape. Other actions in that sentence are developmentally appropriate, encouraging and exemplifying the play-based structure that attracts so many families to HCNS. As parents, we are confident that HCNS takes the utmost care in guarding our children’s wellbeing and safety.
It is rare to hear screaming children when approaching the school — we never have — but sometimes children do shout when they're playing outside and sometimes the three-to five-year-olds do defy the rules. It is difficult to see these facts as a problem.
The truth is, happy, healthy young children can be messy and noisy and they often test authority figures. This behavior is developmentally appropriate and nurtured by the staff at all levels.
We acknowledge that early childhood educators are grossly underpaid. However, constituents in the IU community have noticed and acted as recently as 2019, when the IU Child Care Coalition successfully led an initiative to increase all lead teacher and center director salaries by $4,000, putting IU ahead of the Big Ten average for teacher pay.
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Finally, HCNS has maintained a safe environment for preschool-aged children during a global pandemic, an extraordinarily difficult feat and one not universally seen in this community. Part of this success is the program’s strict mask policy.
“The adherence to the mask policy and the strict hygiene protocols put in place at Hoosier Courts are well above CDC standards for this age group of children. Locally there are no statistics or evidence showing that young children in school or daycare are contributing to community spread of COVID 19, however studies do show that children benefit from social interactions and learning opportunities provided by in person early childhood education,” said IU Health Nurse Practitioner and HCNS parent Danielle Benedek, who works in Women’s and Children’s Services and serves as a Hoosier Courts Nursery School Parent Advisory Board member.
We find HCNS to be a peaceful, nurturing, engaging environment. Our teachers and staff provide a vibrant and endearing space where children are allowed agency in their own education, where they truly learn by play. We are proud to send our children there and are disappointed in the sensationalist, uninformed way our center was portrayed in TerBush’s article.
Hoosier Courts Nursery School Parent Advisory Board