Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions
What has been your approach towards centre operations during the pandemic?
The focus of our approach during this time has been to ensure the health and safety of our staff, our children, and our families. While some centres remained closed throughout this time, others did not close at all. Still others opened back up in order to support our families working on the front lines. Each step of the process has required careful vigilance to hygiene, sanitation practices and standard operating procedures. We have been able to put into place a rigorous system of cleaning and sanitizing, accompanied by thorough handwashing practices. As well, we have adapted our routines and environments to facilitate physical distancing.
Our second focus has been to support our children and families who suddenly found themselves in the new norm of sheltering in place. We immediately launched the ‘Learning at Home” initiative, in which activities targeting different developmental areas for all age groups were sent to families on a weekly basis. In addition, we adopted the YouTube platform to share virtual classes based on our current weekly curriculum for the toddler, preschool and pre-kindergarten age groups. Furthermore, we provided specialised programming for children who required specialised support in speech and social/emotional support. Our goal was to create a thoughtful balance between parent support and independent child engagement through easy to do activities at home with a multitude of outcomes for your children.
How have you adapted to the new measures for re-opening of the centres and what safety measures are in place?
We have researched re-opening guidelines from all our regional health authorities to create a comprehensive list of best practices with respect to the health and safety of our children, our families, and our staff. We have created multiple training documents showcasing these best practices to support our staff as we welcome back our families.
We have looked at all parts of our day, including our routines, our learning activities, mealtimes, transition times, and outside times, to reflect on adaptations we can make to ensure safety measures are in place. All our team is trained on the procedural change and new operating measures prior to the centres re-opening.
What measures are in place for physical distancing requirements?
We have adjusted the physical environment within our classrooms to naturally encourage physical distancing. Popular learning centres have been replicated throughout classrooms to minimize areas of congestion. Smaller tables have been brought into classrooms to create additional opportunities for individual or small group interactions. These areas will also be supported with visual cues for the children to understand participation limits.
We have also adjusted our routines to minimize large group transitions. Traditional large group activities, such as circle-times, will be implemented in smaller group rotations. As well, our team of educators will move throughout the classroom to further engage your children in opportune learning moments.
We will also transition children outside in smaller groups. Floor markings will be placed on the floors near our exits to cue children where to stand when those inevitable small group line-ups do occur. Floor markings will also be placed near washrooms to minimize any unavoidable congestion points.
The activities we implement throughout the day will have inherent physical distancing parameters. Dance, yoga, and many other types of gross motor activities will be used to channel the sheer joy of movement for the children while limiting close interactions. We want to ensure children continue to experience joyful learning.
Our educators will also be provided with additional lounge space to ensure physical distancing can occur when they engage in break times.
How will children understand physical distancing?
We know children are naturally drawn to their peers and we do not want to squelch that tendency. We just want to redirect it when we can! We will use positive language and redirection consistently to help spread children out in play where they have naturally congregated.
We will place posters within the classroom highlighting the length of 2 metres. As well, we will use props such as hula hoops, and pool noodles to further add visual clarification. Our goal is to make this learning fun and engaging.
On top of the visual cues described above, we have also created age-appropriate lesson plans for your children that reinforce what physical distancing means and why we need to do it. These lesson plans use an engaging circle format, with songs, special props, and stories to showcase what physical distancing means. We want to ensure your children are aware, frontloaded and prepared for the changes within their childcare worlds right from the start.
Our team of educators will work with each of the children in their care to develop new personalized greetings to challenge your children to think creatively on new ways to connect!
What if my child just needs a hug?
While we recognize the necessity for physical distancing, we also recognize the necessity for those physical interactions aimed to support a child who may be hurt or distraught. We are not eliminating those moments. We will continue to look out for the emotional health and well-being of every child within our centres and will nurture them accordingly.
Our physical distancing strategies have been implemented to minimize close contact when possible, not altogether.
Will drop-off and pick-up times look different for families?
They will look different. Family members will be asked to remain outside of the centre or within the confines of the centre lobby at each of these times. Tape markings will be placed on the ground to cue families on where to stand. A centre representative will assist each family member with a short screening process developed by their regional healthy authority, including a temperature check. Children will not be able to attend the centre should any family member display any of the symptoms described within this screening.
As well, centre staff will bring children to their respective classrooms at the beginning of the day and back to their families at the end of the day to minimize any exposure from outside sources.
Individual centres that have had historically busy time periods surrounding drop-offs and pick-ups will reach out to families to create a more staggered process.
All non-essential visitors will not be permitted within our centres at this time.
Will staff be wearing PPE such as masks and gloves?
All staff will be required to wear gloves during any feeding, diapering, and cleaning process. Gloves will be removed, hands will be washed, and new gloves will be applied for each new process. We are not requiring our staff to wear masks at this time during typical daily interactions, but some staff may choose to. We are honouring their requests by having masks available. When this occurs, we will prepare the children for this change by using our classroom mascots and mask templates to ensure the change is seamless and not scary.
During times of required close physical proximity, such as diapering and feeding young children, we are recommending the use of a disposable gown, or a fabric barrier that can be laundered between uses.
What if my child becomes ill while attending the centre?
In the event your child becomes ill while at the centre, they will be removed from their program and brought to a one on one room (isolated room). At that point, the supporting staff member will be required to wear gloves and a mask to minimize germ transfer, as well as maintain a 2-metre separation. Family members will be contacted immediately and asked to pick their child up. Family members will be required to seek guidance from their regional healthy authority to determine testing protocols. As well, family members will be asked to keep their children home until they have been symptom-free for a period of 14 days and have received negative test results. Depending on the province we may be required to inform our Health Services.
What additional cleaning and hygiene processes are now being implemented?
All high touch surfaces, such as railings, ledges, light switches, doorknobs, faucets, toilet handles, washroom surfaces, countertops, tables and chairs, will be sanitized a minimum of 3 times per day, and up to half hour increments depending on the frequency of use.
Soft materials that cannot be easily cleaned will be removed from the classroom indefinitely. Materials that have been mouthed or contaminated in any way with bodily secretions will be removed from the program until they can be washed and sanitized.
As well, materials that have been used by one group of children will be washed and sanitized before being used by the next group of children. Our team of educators will consistently rotate out toys to ensure a rich variety of play materials for your children. Despite these frequent cleaning requirements, our goal will be to continue to provide robust learning opportunities for your children.
Additional handwashing requirements will be implemented for all children and staff. They will be expected to wash their hands upon arrival to the centre, after outside play, before and after eating, after toileting, after diapering, after cleaning, after wiping noses, and intermittently throughout the day to ensure vigilant practice. As well, educators will role model singing songs throughout the handwashing process to complete the 20-second timed guideline.
Careful attention will be maintained during all snack and mealtimes to eliminate cross-contamination of food items. All surfaces will be washed and sanitized thoroughly before and after mealtimes, and all utensils/serving items will immediately be placed in a bin for washing and sanitizing.
As always, tissue boxes will be available throughout the classroom to catch any sneezes and coughs. Children will be supported to dispose of these tissues appropriately and guided to wash their hands.
Will my child be placed in the same program upon returning to the centre?
Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that your child will return to their previous program. This is largely due to the new regional regulations put in place governing our group sizes, the anticipated gradual growth of our enrollment levels, and the gradual return of our beloved staff. We do want to assure you that all measures will be taken to place your child in a comfortable classroom with familiar peers and educators. We also will ensure that your child’s educators are as consistent as possible to minimize unnecessary exposure risk from others. As well, we will implement primary care group systems within our younger age groups so that consistent educators will be feeding, diapering and assisting your child children at naptime.
Individual centres will reach out to family members, updating them of any changes to their child’s classroom.
How can I help support my child with the transition back to childcare?
We encourage families to begin talking about this upcoming change to their children. Conversations can be based on positive past experiences, including favourite moments with their educators and peers. Reflecting on photos from your child’s electronic scrapbook can also help. It is important to start preparing your children for their new expectations and beginning the countdown for their return.
Some children may exhibit apprehension about returning, and there are some books and rituals that you can put in place to ease some of this anxiety. Please reach out to your centre director for a list of resources.
At the centre level, we will also be supporting your children back by providing visual schedules, story times that feature emotional literacy and resilience, and connection strategies that are personalized and joyful!
In addition, your centre director will provide you with weekly communication regarding any changes within the centre. As well, your child’s educators will provide you with consistent daily communication regarding how your child is settling into the new childcare norm.
We will be doing all we can to nurture and support both our families and our children throughout this transition.
Please reach out to your centre director for clarification on any of the details outlined above.