MIAMI — Miami Head Start heads into a new year with the same challenges as everyone else: dealing with COVID-19.

But they face a little different situation: they are dealing with little ones.

Miami Head Start, located at 1530 H NW, handles children ages 3 and 4.

They’ve got pretty much the same protocols as everyone in education: temperatures will be taken at the drop off point on the side of the building and all staff are required to wear masks.

“If they have a temperature of 100.4, they will have to wait until the next day to bring them in,” said Rocky Barnes, Miami center director.

He said over the summer, air purifiers have been installed in all of the air conditioners.

The heat and air units had been replaced two years ago, but the purifiers will filter the air throughout the classrooms throughout the day.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Barnes said. “Our biggest challenge is the drop-off and pick up of students. We have adopted a policy of no visitors inside the building, and this includes parents unless it’s by appointment. We need an AIP or something like that.

Barnes said those dropping off children will enter on 14th NW and exit on H Street NW.

“We will have a single lane of parents and eight staff members will help getting children and bring them into the building,” Barnes said.

He said the rooms have been staggered and students have been separated into “islands.”

Classrooms 1 and 2 are right across the hall from each other. Students will enter through Classroom 1’s door and be ushered across the ball to Classroom 2.

Barnes said the same format will be used for rooms 3 and 4, 5 and 6 and 7 and 8.

For playground time, only the two adjoining islands (1-2. 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8) will be allowed outside together.

“We will sanitize all the equipment before each group goes outside,” Barnes said.

“That way, if we do have a case of COVID, hopefully it will only affect at the most two classrooms.”

Normally the Miami site will have an enrollment of 152, but so far this year, Barnes said it’s only around 90.

“That first week of school, I expect that we will have 20 or 30 more children,” he said.

Virtual learning is being offered, but only a handful of parents will take advantage of that option.

In addition to Miami, other centers are located in Commerce, Quapaw, Grove, Colcord, Kansas and Vinita with two in Jay, an early Head Start and a regular Head Start.

Barnes said each classroom has three teachers.

Four of the classrooms are made up of 4-year-olds — those that will move up to kindergarten the next school year.

Barnes said of those rooms, all four teachers are state certified. The other four rooms have teachers with CDAs or associates in early childhood.

Persons with questions can call 918-542-9642.