Edmonton

From art supplies to diapering, daycares took time over the details in planning to reopen

Before the YMCA  reopened some of its Edmonton daycares this week, young clipboard-toting patrons were taken on facility tours so they could carefully note the things that had changed in their three months away.

6 YMCA centres in Edmonton opened Monday, a full month after getting green light

Staff and children at a daycare centre in Tacoma, Wash., that reopened in late May. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

Before the YMCA  reopened some of its Edmonton daycares this week, young clipboard-toting patrons were taken on facility tours so they could carefully note the things that had changed in their three months away.

Like the face masks that would be worn when grown-ups changed diapers or helped kids with their sunscreen. And the markings on benches and tables showing where kids could sit or play. Even individualized art bags, containing scissors and crayons that kids couldn't share with any of their friends.

"I think we've done a lot of work to make sure that we're in a good place," said Annalise Yuzda, vice-president in charge of child care for the YMCA of Northern Alberta.

And by all accounts, Monday's reopening of six of the 36 daycare centres operated by the YMCA in Edmonton was a resounding success, she told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Tuesday.

"We had parents commenting that their kids were up at two o'clock in the morning because they were so excited to come back," she said.

Alberta allowed daycares to reopen, with restrictions, on May 14. But the YMCA was among the operators that opted to hold off and take time to build a strong plan to keep staff, children and families safe, said Yuzda.

"We wanted to make sure that we do everything to mitigate the risk of COVID-19," she said. "So we took our time and we did our due diligence — consulted with centres that had already reopened, other YMCAs across the country who never closed, with health, with child-care licensing. We felt we were ready."

Daycare demand grows with relaunch

Toys that couldn't be cleaned were removed. Ditto for carpets. Parents drop off their children to staff at the front door, rather than come into the facility, she said.

In addition to developing safety and operational plans, the YMCA took time to introduce parents and children to the new operations, a process Yuzda said was similar to orientation for new families.

They're also bringing staff in from other sites, to orient them to new protocols and routines, she said.

Reopening anxiety was present among both staff and parents, but the tours, training and protocols have helped reduce that, she said.

Back in May, when daycares were first given the green light to reopen, there wasn't a huge demand for services, Yuzda said. But as Alberta continues the gradual reopening of the economy, demand is increasing as well.

She hopes that the extended closure of many daycares won't become permanent.

"I think it might," she said. "It was a huge financial impact for a lot of centres not operating for three months — or more, if they're not open yet. I believe there'll be some centres that just won't make it. Just like other businesses."

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