Premier lays out basics of P.E.I.'s child-care plan

Premier Dennis King began Wednesday's briefing speaking about the challenges around the child care situation during the pandemic and some of what the P.E.I. government is working on.

Premier Dennis King spoke about plans during Wednesday's briefing

Daycare centres on P.E.I. officially closed on March 17. (Rawpixel/Shutterstock)

Premier Dennis King took an opportunity to lead off Wednesday's briefing to talk about some of the planning that is going into additional child care measures.

Phase 2 of the province's ease-back plan is expected to begin May 22. More businesses will be allowed to reopen, meaning more people getting back to work.

The second phase will also allow all unlicensed and licensed child-care centres to reopen. 

The centres still must follow protocols set out by the Chief Public Health Office, which currently includes physical distancing measures and limits on children and staff in spaces.

"The physical distancing and other health directives that are going on right now are going to result in smaller groups and classes, obviously," King said.

"We also know that we have the added reality that we now have thousands of students who aren't in school but many of them will need to be cared for."

Kids painting at home during COVID-19 school and daycare closures.
Kids painting at home during COVID-19 school and daycare closures on P.E.I. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The government provided reduced or low-cost emergency child-care services for essential workers — moving forward, King said they will be reintroducing parent's fees on a gradual basis. From May 22 until the traditional end of the school year on June 26, additional funding of $75 per child per week will be offered to parents to help offset the cost.

"For those who attend licensed centres, the money will go directly via stipend to those individual [early childhood centres]," King said. "For those who access private child-care solutions, you can apply to be reimbursed this amount through the Department of Education and Early Learning."

Working to deliver alternative programming

King said they are working with organizations like the Early Childhood Development Association of P.E.I.,  UPEI, Holland College and the Bell Aliant Centre — who have experience delivering after-school programming.

"We know that we have to change how we deliver programs, also where some of these programs have been traditionally delivered will need to change as well," King said.

"We will have to provide more space, and that is why we will make our schools available across Prince Edward Island to those who will need them to provide that extra space."

Premier Dennis King says the goal is to get children safely social and active once again. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The government was working with the Public Schools Branch and the Commission scolaire de langue française to help find extra space.

King said they are planning on delivering something to school-age children who will require more assistance for a longer period of time before the traditional summer break. 

Breaking down the numbers

King said there are more than 850 children from almost 500 families currently using emergency child-care centres that were set up a few weeks ago to assist essential workers.

"We know that there are about 18,000 children in P.E.I. aged zero to 12," King said. "So pre-COVID, 6,150 of these kids would be in early childhood centres."

King said more than 2,200 school-age children would have been in before- and after-school programs. There were also around 300 unlicensed providers taking care of roughly 1,500 kids.

"As we move into the next phases of our economy opening up a bit, Islanders will be returning to the workforce and as I say, will require child-care options and we know those numbers will be much higher than before," King said.

Working with public health

King said an additional 1,100 spaces at early childhood centres will be opened up on May 22 as the number of open centres grows from 22 to 155.

King said when Phase 2 begins, the unlicensed centres will be allowed to take in up to seven school-age children.

The Chief Public Health Office is still working on health directives with day camp providers, King said, to be ready in the days ahead.

P.E.I.'s Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning Brad Trivers is expected to make a more detailed announcement on Friday.

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