by Brad Aubin
As Ontario has entered phase 2 of reopening after the COVID-19 outbreak, everyone is scrambling to adjust to the “new normal”, from restaurants serving food on their patios to hairdressers cutting hair with a plethora of protective equipment to limit contact with clients. With phase two also calling for daycares to reopen, that attention to safety is particularly essential as workers have to reinvent how they watch our children and limit physical interactions between them.
When COVID-19 struck, the West Nipissing Child Care Corporation (WNCCC) had to close all of its sites, then reopened just its “center-based” child care centre on Michaud Street in early May to serve only frontline workers, as per provincial regulations.
Lise Duhaime, Executive Director of the WNCCC, says she and her staff worked extraordinarily hard to make sure they were able to meet government and health unit safety standards, as well as parents’ needs, before that re-opening. “We changed our guidelines, rules, protocols, and everything in between. The ones we didn’t update, we created, as some things didn’t exist in terms of cleanliness. We upped that aspect, our hand washing, wearing masks, how to put them on, take them off, etc; all of these very important things that we had to learn quickly. We ordered PPE for all of our individuals: mask, gloves, face shields, gowns, and we did that as soon as there was a possibility for front line workers to access daycare. It took us three weeks to prep and get ready. The Health Unit came in and inspected, told us everything was ok and she was happy with our new guidelines. As soon as those new protocols and guidelines were approved by the health unit, DSSAB, and the Ministry, we met with our managers and some of the workers and got everything in line to open.”
However, that was just for one site, and the five other daycare centres operated by the WNCCC remain closed for now, even though the government gave them a green light to open on June 12. One of the issues is that the daycares are inside schools – buildings not owned by the corporation, but by school boards, and currently closed.
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