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Decatur’s early childhood director tests positive for COVID-19

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Decatur’s early childhood director tests positive for COVID-19

A picture of Sarah Garland with one of City Schools of Decatur's Pre-K classes. Photo provided by CSD.
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Decatur, GA – Sarah Garland, the Director of Early Childhood for City Schools of Decatur, has tested positive for COVID-19.

The district confirmed the news in an email to parents.

“Sarah Garland, Director of Early Childhood, has informed the district that she has tested positive for COVID-19 and asked the district to share this information with the CSD community,” the School District said. “Based on the timing of our school closure, the risk of transmission to others in the school is relatively low. As is our practice under privacy regulations, further information about her health conditions will not be shared by district personnel.”

Garland was named CSD’s permanent Early Childhood Director in 2018.

Garland said at the time she was “honored and excited” to become the permanent director, a role that is essentially the Principal of the College Heights.

She joined the school in 2010 as an early childhood specialist, a job similar to assistant principal. Her background is in educational consulting. She grew up in Cincinnati before moving to Georgia to attend the University of Georgia in 1988.

With the news hitting so close to home, many Decatur parents may be wondering how to talk about this with their children.

Jody Baumstein, a licensed therapist with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life, said there’s no one way to handle it, but offered some general guidelines for parents.

“We don’t ever want to tell people exactly what to do because every child is different and can handle information differently,” Baumstein said. “You can share the facts with them, but just keep it to the facts. Maybe they don’t have any feelings about it. Maybe they’re scared. Try reassuring them by focusing them on what they can control, whether that’s social distancing or fighting germs by washing their hands.”

Kids are home from school and have no idea when or if they’ll be returning. It’s important to open up a dialogue, Baumstein said.

She recommended that parents start by asking their children what they know already about the situation to get a sense of what’s on their mind.

“Part of it is thinking about what is developmentally appropriate,” Baumstein said. “You wouldn’t want to share with your kindergartener what you would share with your 10th grader, so you don’t give them more information than what they can handle. We encourage parents to correct any misinformation they hear, particularly with middle childhood. We encourage people to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible. We also want to give parents permission to not have all the answers. It’s OK to tell your kids, I don’t know right now. I’m not sure. We’re going to figure this out together, so you don’t find yourselves misleading them.”

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Everyone — parents and kids — needs to be aware of how they’re feeling. Parents need to acknowledge what they’re feeling, whether its anxiety, anger or grief. Parents need to be mindful because kids can tell and will respond to nonverbal cues.

“Kids are looking at our nonverbal behavior and our cues all day long,” Baumstein said. “Even if we tell them there’s nothing to worry about if our behavior is telling them otherwise, it’s sending the message to be on alert. Try to get yourself calm and regulated before you sit down with your kids. After you’ve done that, you want to check in with kids about how they’re feeling. It’s easy to make assumptions that we know exactly what they’re feeling, but they’re like adults. Their feelings can be changing from moment to moment.”

The last thing she recommended is getting kids to focus on what they can and can’t control.

“We can’t control what other people are doing in the community, but we can focus on staying at home, practicing social distancing, washing our hands really well,” Baumstein said. “That helps them have a sense of control and calm. Another piece of offering reassurance is letting them know we have experts working to help us be safe and be healthy.”

Keeping your kids calm is good. Keeping them occupied helps. How to do that depends on the family, but physical activity is a good thing to implement.

“There’s no textbook. There isn’t a clear answer,” Baumstein said. “We encourage everyone to be kind and patient with themselves. You might say yes to something today that you would’ve said no to three weeks ago.”

She said parents are feeling anxious about the responsibilities of keeping kids on top of their schoolwork and on a schedule while managing their own jobs.

“If you’re working a full-time job, maybe the one thing you can do is maintain a simple routine,” Baumstein said. “At the same eight o clock hour we go to bed. Maybe it’s something as simple as that. Things are changing day-to-day. Kids crave routine and structure, and if that means there’s one thing that’s normal every day, that’s a good starting point. Kids [and adults] need to give themselves permission to not be perfect.”

Also, make time for things that are fun, Baumstein said. And limit the amount of information kids receive about COVID-19 whenever possible. Make time to turn off the phone and the television news.

“Everyone’s flooded with these constant alerts and notifications. There’s nothing wrong with being informed,” she said. “but if we’re constantly tuning in, it’s contributing to this sense of panic and this heightened state.”

Above all, be kind to yourself.

“That’s the main message for people,” Baumstein said. “Do the best you can. Don’t beat yourself up.”

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