Daycares and out of school programs are scheduled to open May 14 in the first phase of the reopening strategy, but up to Friday, operators had no guidelines to work with.
Although the relaunch strategy was announced April 30, childcare operators didn’t receive any guidelines from the provincial government until Friday. They won’t be made public until tomorrow but the News obtained a copy May 8.
Phase 1 to last two-three weeks
The government, in collaboration with Alberta Health Services, expects Stage 1 to last at least two to three weeks. Daycares can open provided there have been no known outbreaks in the community.
“Programs will need to implement cleaning protocols, change program plans, and maintain a state of new normal prior to bringing up enrolment,” reads the document.
The same guidelines that applied to the limited number of childcare centres which opened mid-April for essential workers will apply to Stage 1 daycares beginning May 14.
No more than 10 people – including staff and children – can be in a room at one time. They count as a cohort and can’t interact with others in the space. In total, the daycare can’t have more than 30 people in the building.
Attendance has to be reported weekly to Children’s Services.
Parents must check the children’s temperature daily and daycare staff has to ensure there are posters to remind them.
Frequent handwashing is also required after every contact and cleaning. Kids have to come with meals and snacks – individually wrapped – from home and utensils must be used.
Masks are not mandatory in this first phase.
No date has been set for Stage 2. At that time, daycares and out of school centres can work up to 75 per cent of their usual capacity.
Will centres open?
Prior to the Friday, however, childcare operators and their associations communicated to the government that guidelines are needed for the safe opening of their centres.
The YMCA of Alberta released a set of questions and recommendations May 5, intended to address some of the unknowns they were faced with and how they intend to proceed with reopening.
“Us, like every childcare across the province, we’re waiting and trying to work as closely as we can with the provincial government around what the recommendations, restrictions, guidelines are going to look like because I’m sure the local educators in Westlock are feeling that that’s going to have a big impact on what opening actually looks like and if it’s even viable,” said Michelle Hynes-Dawson, VP of communications with YMCA of Northern Alberta on Thursday.
Still, whether or not centres would open was “very much dependent on what those recommendations and restrictions are by the government and Alberta Health Services,” she added.
The YMCA is the largest provider of healthcare in the province, with 76 childcare programs.
Childcare centres like the YMCA and the Westlock Child Care Society had no clarity on when guidelines would be made available.
In a May 5 e-mail addressed to educators, Children’s Services minister Rebecca Schulz said: “I understand (guidelines) will factor significantly into when you choose to reopen, so we will share those with you as soon as possible. However, they are not likely to be available until next week.”
In that same e-mail, she encouraged operators to “work toward a May 14 re-opening date.”
The Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta also addressed the minister May 7 in a letter, endorsing the YMCA’s recommendations and asking for cooperation.
By that time, Hynes-Dawson and the Westlock Society’s executive director Christine Villeneuve were hoping for more clarity.
“From our perspective, we need this the sooner, the better. There’s definitely an urgency,” said Hynes-Dawson.
Children’s Services is also planning on hosting a town hall with childcare facility operators, which the minister announced in that May 5 e-mail.
See the May 12 edition of Town and Country This Week for more on what the Westlock Child Care Society’s decision for reopening.
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