New Brunswick daycares set to open on May 19
Operators disappointed that more details weren't made available
Some New Brunswickers will be heading back to work next week, but their regular childcare facilities may not be available.
Daycares are not slated to open until May 19, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Friday at his daily news briefing.
He said the government wanted to leave enough time for operators to prepare.
"And this announcement today gives them time to do that. Some may be able to open sooner — with some of the unlicensed daycares that are available."
According to the province's website, "non-regulated" childcare providers may open immediately, "but must adhere to Public Health guidelines, including having an operational plan."
Similarly, "day camps" are also allowed to open "if the organization can adhere to Public Health measures set out in the document called COVID-19 Recovery Phase: Guidance to Early Learning and Childcare Facilities and Day Camps."
Higgs said parents have "had the responsibility, I guess, with their children up to this point, and that'll continue. And if they can't return to work because of the lack of daycare, then maybe it's put off till the 19th."
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said more information will be available on the province's website Friday about what will be expected of daycare operators.
Some operators were disappointed that more information wasn't sent directly to them.
"Here it is, 5:26 on Friday evening and there's nothing in my inbox," said Jean Robinson, president of Early Childhood Care and Education New Brunswick.
Robinson, who operators Lincoln Daycare Centre, said she only knows that daycares will open on May 19 because she was watching the government's briefing.
"We don't know anything," she said.
Heather Hamilton, the owner of Hamilton Homestyle Daycare, is relieved that the premier didn't announce that regulated daycares would open immediately.
She said both of her Saint John locations "are certainly on track" to open to their regular clients on May 19.
Hamilton's daycare remained open to look after the children of essential workers, but she said there is still a lot of juggling to do to welcome back some of her old clients while saying goodbye to those who were there temporarily while most daycares across the province were ordered closed.
What daycares might look like
While she hadn't heard any details from the province about what measures childcare facilities will have to follow, she said it's likely they will be similar to the ones she's been following for the last several weeks.
"Parents weren't coming in the building," said Hamilton. "They called ahead to say they were almost there and the staff met them at the door and they brought them in, did a hand washing and got them rigged up and ready for the day and into their classrooms."
Hamilton said there was no attempt to keep kids two metres apart.
"No, you can't stop kids from doing that," she said. "We just did a lot of hand washing. I mean, they played together, they washed their hands; they played together, they washed their hands."
Handwashing was constant, she said. The trick was to make it fun so that it didn't become burdensome for the children.
Here it is, 5:26 on Friday evening and there's nothing in my inbox.- Jean Robinson
Daycares were also restricted to 10 people in a room, including staff.
"So our numbers were drastically reduced," said Hamilton.
She said one of her locations was reduced from 120 children to 27, and the other from 88 to 20. The reduction was partly due to having only 13 of her 32 staff members willing or able to work.
She said there were days when she regretted her decision to stay open during the state of emergency.
"There were days, yes. We're tired. There's 13 of us and that's all we've done."
She said it was stressful adjusting to so many new children and parents "in one fell swoop."
"I think I'll be glad to see the end of it, to get our new norm back to rights again, and get some regular night's sleep — 13, 14-hour days are long.
"Even finding supplies like bleach was a stressful thing. Thankfully for Sobeys, they reached out and gave us access to their stock before they put it on the shelves."
Requests for information to the government went unanswered Friday.