Short notice means not all Ottawa daycares will reopen Friday
Many operators were counting on 3 weeks notice, but got only 3 days
Tuesday's announcement that childcare centres in Ontario will be allowed to reopen by the end of the week was met with both glee and surprise by Janet LeBlanc, director of the Bettye Hyde Cooperative Early Learning Centre in Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood.
"I wasn't expecting things to get rolling so soon," said LeBlanc. "Opening Friday is scary. It's a lot."
LeBlanc says she's been messaging with other daycare directors during the shutdown, many of whom had been expecting to receive three weeks notice from the government before it allowed daycares to reopen.
Even though childcare centres can begin welcoming children on Friday, Leblanc is going to take more time to train her nine full-time staff, as well as update her facility on Blackburn Avenue to meet the government's requirements before welcoming back the centre's 24 preschoolers and 15 toddlers.
"We have been trying to get as prepared as we can," she said. "But it's been unclear so we've been very much looking at the emergency childcare models."
Part of plan to relaunch economy
After ordering all childcare centres shut down in mid-March, the Ford government allowed the reopening of emergency daycares for children of certain front-line workers including police officers and nurses, with strict protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19.
LeBlanc says that move gave her and other daycare directors a sense of what they would need to do to reopen, but she's still waiting for personal protective equipment, namely face shields, which she ordered more than two weeks ago.
In his announcement Tuesday, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government had been hinting daycares would soon get the green light.
"Some operators will want to take the time and do the proper training then open, and that may take them some days," said Lecce. "We respect that."
The move, says Lecce, is an important step in relaunching Ontario's economy.
"Parents across the province have said to us that they want to have an option, a viable safe option, for their child when it comes to their ability to work," said Lecce.
Stuffies sent to storage
Included in the protocols is that daycares must respect a limit of 10 children and staff per cohort, a ban on visitors, the creation of a COVID-19 response plan should a child, parent or daycare staff member become infected, the requirement for parents to drop-off and pick-up their child outside the facility, screening of children for symptoms of COVID-19 and a ban on toys that are more likely to spread germs.
"It's stressful, but the one thing about childcare is that we're always at risk of spreading germs so we have the good fortune of always being really cautious anyway," said LeBlanc.
"It's just that extra level of protection. All the stuffies are in a storage bin."
As news broke of the government's plan, LeBlanc emailed parents to get a feel for their intentions and level of comfort.
"Some parents indicated that they'd like to come back as soon as possible, while others said they would be happy to hold on and wait. So I'm not entirely sure what our numbers will look like." she said.
"We'll do our best to accommodate everybody."