Manor delays preschool opening

Chad Frey
Students will not return to Apple-A-Day Preschool at Newton Presbyterian Manor for the fall term as the retirment community takes precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is the first closure of the preschool program in 28 years.

This has been a good news/bad news week for Newton Presbyterian Manor.

The good news is a second round of campus-wide COVID-19 testing following a cluster outbreak that included five staff and one resident showed no new positive cases.

“Our team has worked very hard, and continues to work hard, to keep our residents healthy and safe,” said Marc Kessinger, Newton Presbyterian Manor executive director. “We will continue to monitor residents for signs and symptoms of respiratory illness and other COVID-19 symptoms during each shift.”

However, all reopening plans have remained on hold — the campus must not have a positive test case for 28 days before the cluster designation can be lifted.

The bad news for the Manor is that for the first time in 28 years, the Apple-A-Day Preschool will not have classes in the fall.

“This decision has been very difficult,” Kessinger said. “Our preschool director and her team worked on numerous scenarios to figure out a safe way to bring the students into the building and continue the program this fall. However, with the number of COVID-19 cases remaining high in the county and the vulnerability of the seniors in our care, we feel it is best to suspend preschool operations for the fall semester.”

The senior living community will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Harvey County and the surrounding area before making a determination about the spring semester, scheduled to start in January.

Kessinger said the health and safety of the residents has to come first, and acknowledged that residents will miss the regular interaction with the youngsters in the program.

“The Apple-A-Day Preschool children bring new energy into our building every day, and we’re all going to miss their excitement, special visits, and laughter,” he said.

The hope, according to Kessinger and preschool staff, is to reopen the preschool for the spring semester.

“Our hope is that by the spring semester, we will be able to reopen the preschool,” said Renee Hamm, preschool director. “It has been an important part of the Newton community and the Presbyterian Manor campus for nearly 30 years. We know this decision places a hardship on parents who were counting on this program, and we appreciate their understanding and continued support.”

The community will continue with the preventive measures in place for combating COVID-19. These measures include wearing personal protective equipment as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and employee screening at arrival. All staff members are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines and best practices as these are continually updated. All staff are educated to stay at home if they are experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness or not feeling well.