With restrictions easing, many childcare centres are able to reopen and offer services again. But reopening a centre now involves taking into account numerous guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety and to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While this may seem overwhelming, below is a list of some key things to implement and look for when reopening a childcare centre. It can help centres, like yours, be more prepared and communicate to families that you are taking the situation seriously.
1. Create a response plan when a staff member or child is exposed to COVID-19
With the current situation, we can see that unexpecting situations can come up, such as someone testing positive or being exposed to COVID-19. If the situation is very serious, this may even lead to your centre closing temporarily. Hence, being proactive and creating a response plan allows for your centre to react quickly and reduce putting more families or staff members at risk. This plan may include:
- Notifying your region’s public health centre
- Sending the child or staff member home to self-isolate and get tested
- Notifying families and all staff members who come to the centre about the potential exposure
- Cleaning and sanitizing the whole centre; this may involve having to close the centre for a few days
2. Have a screening checklist
Monitoring children who come in and out of your centre is important so that you can minimize the chances of an outbreak. To simplify the screening process, having a checklist where a staff member can ask a series of questions and go through certain procedures will ensure all necessary steps and procedures are followed during daily screening. A member can ask a series of symptom-related questions, take the child’s temperature, and also visually look for any physical symptoms. You can create your own checklist or there may be some available on your local city’s website. Some questions that may be asked include:
- Does your child have a fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy/runny nose, or have difficulty breathing?
- Has your child been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19?
You can also send a self-screening checklist to families. This isn’t a substitute for your screening procedures at your centre. But by providing a checklist to families, they can decide prior to dropping their child off if they think their child should attend.
3. Having smaller groups and practicing physical distancing
Current guidelines have stated that there can only be a certain number of people in a child-care setting. This also depends on the age groups of the children in the centre, as some age groups require more staff members and less children and vice versa. Having a limit on the group size limits the spread of COVID-19 while also allowing individuals to practice social distancing within the centre. Maintaining that 2 metres of distance between the children may seem challenging but this is the time to be creative and look at new ways to still be able to help and teach children.
4. Wear face masks and other necessary PPE
All staff members and parents who come in contact with the centre should be required to wear face masks and staff members in particular should also be wearing face shields. Depending on the age of the child, they should also be wearing a mask. Even if a child is or isn’t wearing a mask, physical distancing should still be followed.
5. Frequently clean the space and equipment
Sanitizing and cleaning are a mandatory step to take to limit the risk of infection. Especially in childcare centres, many materials and equipment may become contaminated. Thus, high-touch objects, such as tables, door handles, and toys, should be sanitized frequently. Furthermore, centres need to decide what equipment and materials they will and will not have available, based on the ability to clean and disinfect it. For example, the toys available to children should always be disinfected immediately after use. While plastic toys are easy to disinfect, toys that are plush are not and should not be available to use. Additionally, if a centre wants to offer the ability to play with sensory materials, like sand and water, they should be single-use.
To clean these spaces and equipment, you will need many supplies. Thus, it is always important to have cleaning supplies on hand and to always buy extra. The use of sanitizing wipes, paper towels, and other cleaning liquids are crucial if you want the centre to stay open.
6. Create a plan for drop-off and pick-up
It is important to have a set of procedures put in place regarding child drop-off and pick-up to support physical distancing and minimize the number of people within the centre. Some procedures include:
- Staggering entrance and exit times so that there isn’t a group of people entering and leaving the centre at once
- Having an area where staff members can complete their daily screening procedures
- Having an area where parents and children can wash and sanitize their hands
- Utilizing signs and stickers to maintain the two metres of distance between individuals
7. Look at your region’s guidelines
You should always be looking at your centre’s city’s and even town’s guidelines around reopening childcare centres during COVID-19. While most areas have very similar rules and regulations, some towns may have extra or different rules to follow depending on the severity of COVID-19 in the area. There will be detailed explanations on the protocols that need to be followed as well as other information that can provide guidance to centres regarding their operations.
This process may not be easy, but it will be worth it. As a member of your centre, you understand what will work best for your centre and how to keep it afloat. As long as you are able to maintain the trust of parents and follow the key guidelines, then you are on your way to overcome this tricky situation.