“Some things have changed, but our core values and our striving to achieve excellence is always there,” says Elizabehth “Biz” Steinberg, CEO of Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO). CAPSLO’s commitment to quality is reflected in their designation as an NHSA Program of Excellence, last awarded to their Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program in 2016.
Much of CAPSLO’s innovation and service to children and families happens behind the scenes, but it’s on full display in their outdoor play areas.
“All areas of curriculum are represented in our outdoor play yards,” says Biz. “There’s dramatic play outside, as well as blocks, sand, water play, gardening, and large motor activities. You’ll see paved tricycle paths and shade structures.”
An unexpected benefit to the outdoor space has been the time it allows children to spend outside as a COVID safety precaution.
“We’re lucky we’re in California because all that we’re able to do outside cuts down on the number of children that have to be in one space. We were well situated because we had already started the practice. It’s something that took us years to build up—a lot of budgeting and planning went into having water out there for the children, the shade structures, and play structures are from natural materials.”
CAPSLO’s long-standing commitment to quality has helped them adapt to the pandemic in more ways than one. At the start, they were able to pivot to remote services quickly, providing families with iPads so that children could access recorded lessons and resources online and parents could participate in training of their own. In fact, parent engagement in Policy Council training and meetings increased when they were able to attend from home.
“It has been stressful and exhausting, but something is working for us,” says Biz. “I recently attended a workshop at the Community Action Partnership’s National Conference about ‘The Great Resignation.’ I really tried to turn those words into ‘The Great Innovation’ because we’ve had to innovate! Our staff turnover rate was around 19 percent in 2018, and for 2021 it has fallen to about 11 percent.”
CAPSLO’s adaptability, innovation, and attention to detail earned them the designation of Program of Excellence before the pandemic, and these same qualities continue to set them up for success in an ever-changing world.
Learn more about NHSA’s Program of Excellence Accreditation.