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One daycare cleared to reopen, four more apply

Only one daycare centre has been given the green light to reopen, the Government said yesterday.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said the kindergarten had been granted approval to operate as part of Phase 2 of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, which began last Thursday.

The spokeswoman added that applications from four other daycare centres were being reviewed and that a list of approved ones would be posted on the government website.

One daycare owner said yesterday that she was in the process of putting together her application to reopen.

But she warned that some of the rules that businesses had to follow to reopen could present problems.

The woman explained: “While the health and safety guidelines are fine, it is the operational aspects, such as changes in drop-off and pick-up procedures, scheduling of additional cleaning, and changes to daily programming to help maintain social-distancing as much as possible, that would be more challenging.”

She added: “Maintaining the student-teacher ratio will also be challenging, because you have to weigh the cost of the enrolled children with the cost for those staff members.

“The general public has no idea of the cost of doing business and what really has to be charged to pay for all of the employment benefits.

“This is why so many daycares are in debt or just above water.”

The rules and procedures that permitted daycares must follow are outlined in a 11-page document posted on the government website.

They include:

• Centres must use a 1:4 ratio with a maximum group size of eight with two adults

• All pickups and drop-offs shall be conducted outside the facility

• All staff and children must wash their hands before entering classrooms, before and after meals and after bathroom breaks

• Staff should reinforce a no-sharing policy among children to include food, water bottles and personal items

• All toys and surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected daily

The woman, who asked not to be named, said that that daycare centres with good health records and parent support should be allowed to reopen as part of Phase 2.

She added: “Many have been closed for over two months and this is financially challenging for cash-based businesses.

“We recognise that in order for people to go back to work, schools for all grades need to open to provide educational support.” The woman said the forced closures had been “incredibly challenging” for the sector and had led to employee layoffs and difficulties in relationships with parents over items such as fees.

She added it had also been hard on the children.

The daycare centre owner explained: “They used to see us every day and for the past few months it has been maybe via WhatsApp or a Zoom call.

“This is not quite the same level of interaction as we are used to.”

The owner said that the running of daycare centres was not a cash cow and there was “very little flexibility in how we can operate”.

She explained: “We don't have the option to go online and staff don't have the option to work from home.

“Our business is built on building special relationships with the students and their parents.”

She said that the sector had struggled even before the pandemic from increased competition from private schools and expanded government programmes, as well as a drop in the birthrate.

The woman said that she hoped the sector could unite “to bring about better service to the community and keep our businesses viable”.

She added: “We not only employ adults but we utilise the services of part-time staff as substitutes, and summer students.

“Our role in the economy is just as important as other industries and I hope people will begin to hear our voice.”

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Published May 27, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 27, 2020 at 3:46 pm)

One daycare cleared to reopen, four more apply

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