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Isabel Patterson Child Development Center has yet to reopen to full capacity amidst staff shortage

At its peak, the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center could hold up to 200 children on a typical day. Now amidst the return to in-person classes, the center has yet to return to full capacity, not due to the pandemic, but the lack of staff.

Nationally, there is a shortage of childcare workers largely due to anxieties about children being unvaccinated and the rise of the delta variant.

AlecSandria Colchico, director of the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center, has even had to help teach, prepare meals and wash dishes, in addition to her directorial responsibilities.

“Sometimes I’m in the classroom helping, which is a gift to me, because I get to connect back to my roots of being a teacher so many years ago,” Colchico said. “We’ve been very creative and we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve been able to do that, but it’s a struggle.”

The center needs to maintain a student-to-teacher ratio, and with a smaller number of teachers than usual, they have not been able to return to full capacity. They currently have approximately 100 students across all programs, Colchico said.

The center hopes to expand upon the services they’re currently offering and open up to full capacity soon. In order to maintain an appropriate student-to-teacher ratio, the center has limited enrollment capacity until they can hire more teachers.

Pre-school aged 3-years-olds have a ratio of seven students for one teacher. Classrooms for 4-year-olds, older preschool, have eight students per teacher. The oldest children, school-aged, maintain a ratio of ten students per teacher.

Spots at the child development center have always been highly sought after, and there is currently a waitlist for families looking to join the center. Part of the center’s mission is to offer childcare for student parents who are prioritized for enrollment, so they can focus on their studies.

Student parents of older children such as third-year psychology major, Cindy Guardado, said there are few resources available at the child development center for her 14-year-old son.

“I don’t live life based on my schedule,” Guardado said. “I plan everything based on my son’s schedule and activities after school. [It’s] always been my mission to make sure that I am available during the times that my son needs me to be.”

Guardado has balanced her own anxieties about the pandemic in addition to her son’s. Though her classes are online, she makes it a point to study in the campus library at least once a week.

Overall, Guardado’s priority has always been being a present mother for her son.

Beyond the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center, some resources available for pregnant and parenting students include the Beach Parents program and the Pregnant and Parenting Students Association. Yet, both have suffered due to the low engagement resulting from online instruction.

Geneva Casellas, a fourth-year finance major at CSULB, was elected president of the PPSA last year and has maintained her position as president due to an insufficient number of applicants for the organization’s board.

“We don’t really have anybody stepping up,” Casellas said. “We’ve suffered from the pandemic and still are carrying on.”

Casellas has been a mother throughout her entire college career. Her son, Mateo, was 6-months-old when she started classes at Long Beach State as a first-year.

Abby Bradecich, a psychologist at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), juggled parenting and graduate school, which drove her to get involved with the student-parent community on campus.

She saw a need for more support for undergraduate student parents and wanted to create a space for them, called Beach Parents. This program also holds monthly virtual workshops that cover topics ranging from stress management to single parents support, and more.

Between balancing child care needs, course work, general anxiety about the pandemic and financial strain, Bradecich has noticed student parents experiencing more stress than usual. However, less students are reaching out for help.

“As a therapist who is working with student parents to provide emotional support and spaces to find connection, I’ve noticed their ability to reach out for emotional support is more difficult online,” Bradecich said.

Parents like third-year communication major, Alexandrea Posada have elected to stay online because their children are too young to be enrolled in public school or the development center.

She found out she was pregnant with her youngest child in January of this year, but in an effort to not delay her graduation she continued on with her course load. In addition to the 12 units she took in the spring, her 6-year-old started preschool and she continued to balance her classes with parenting her 4-year-old at home.

Posada’s professors have always extended additional help and accommodations for her lifestyle and though she has been able to manage her studies and parenting, the support was “very welcoming.”

Though she recognizes the myriad of resources available for pregnant and parenting students at LBSU, Posada wishes there were lower commitment daycare options available for younger children. For example, she wishes there was an option for childcare for her children if she wanted to visit the gym for a short period of time.

Though the development center has started welcoming children in-person again, they have adopted COVID guidelines to minimize the risk of the virus spreading.

All students, three years and older, are required to wear masks at the development center, unless they’re eating or napping. Additionally, students must fill out a COVID questionnaire and be cleared to come to the center.

“We’ve had to change [procedures] and parents have been going with it,” Colchico said. “Some days we have just about all the kids here, but right now it’s cold and flu season. It kind of ebbs and flows, so a lot of kids have been out.”

Even amidst cold and flu season, Colchico states that the center has been more strict than usual, given that children below the age of 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated against COVID yet.

“We’re looking forward to the day that this blows over and we get more students on campus and a healthier pool of employment,” Colchico said.

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