Taking PRE-Kaution: Discovery Preschool continues to bring joy to its kids during unknown times

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
Discovery Preschool students interact with assisted living patents during their socially distant visits to the facility. Bethany Narveson, photo provided

When the pandemic hit in March, almost every aspect of life was put on hold. Restaurants, schools, and other places of commonality had closed their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On top of all these closures, people lost a lot of their social aspects of life.

Bethany Narveson, the owner of Discovery Preschool in Devils Lake, lost over half her students in March and applied for aid from the state. When children were able to return to preschool almost everything was the same except for one activity: the kids couldn't interact with the patients at the assisted living facility the same way.

However, the interactions between the children and the nursing home residents are a glimmer of light, even before the pandemic, and Narveson found a way for both groups to visit with each other safely. The kids come up to the window to wave and communicate to the patients inside.

"We used to go over there every two weeks or once a month a do activities with the residents," Narveson said. "When COVID hit, you can't go in there, and both the kids and residents looked forward to the visit. They loved having that time together, so we wanted to keep that going."

Now in December, the kids will bundle up in their jackets, snow pants, and boots and march over to the facility. Some of the residents of the facility spend the day waiting for the kids to stop by. In a few cases, residents get to socially distant visit with younger family members.

The visit is more like a parade around the building as the kids make as many stops as they can before heading back to the preschool. While the visits may be different from a few months ago, Narveson said the kids love it.

"There are trails in the back of the nursing home, so we'll use them and walk around the windows, and eventually run around. They have a blast," Narveson said. "If we don't go, they'll say "teacher, why aren't we going?"

Growing up ages under the age of five during a world-changing event, the kids are still enjoying their daily lives, but are aware of what is going on around them. In making sure everyone is washing their hands and keep good hygiene, Narveson has worn a mask throughout the entire day, which does present its challenges in trying to keep 12 kids under control.

"Things have been changing and they have been pretty open about it," Narveson said. "Some will ask why they can't go in when first being dropped off at the school and others will respond because of the Corona. We can't spread it. They totally get it."

Not only are the kids' daily enjoyment and cooperation helping them, but it's helping Narveson as well. At one point, Narveson and her daughter had to quarantine for two weeks, which threw them out of a loop in socialization and routine.

Routine is something that Narveson has valued in running in preschool and new precautions, that a lot of child care providers might've not thought about, make the job a little more challenging than normal.

"We, as child care providers, having so many standards they've been changing with cleaning and masking up," Narveson said. "We need to emphasize that these kids need to wash their hands, even if they're already doing it, and cover their cough. It's normal, but it's about taking that extra time."

However, despite the extra work, the maintenance of the mental health of the kids, assisted living patients and Narveson herself, is extremely important. The walk-up window visits that the kids have are not only benefitting those who may not be able to physically visit with those in the outside world but those who can as well.

"The word I always say is that it's so unknown," Narveson said. "I've been teaching my daughter is that we can get through this and have a positive attitude. Even going to see grandmas and grandpas, seeing someone else's smile is very, very important."  

Jack Williams covers Lake Region sports and general news for The Devils Lake Journal. Contact him via email at JGWilliams1@gannett.com, on Twitter @jackgwilliams, or phone at 701-662-2127.