Childcare centres set to reopen in Ontario, but are they ready?

Jun 10 2020, 9:53 am

Ontario childcare centres are set to reopen on Friday, but advocates say that proper funding is needed for the facilities to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that all childcare centres can reopen on June 12 with restrictions in place.

However, the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC) says that a better funding model is needed in order for facilities to cope with the extra resources needed during the pandemic.

The coalition noted that childcare centres needed full enrollment and high parent fees to keep the doors open pre-COVID, but the pandemic “threw that model out the window.”

In order for there to be reduced group sizes and to keep children safe, without additional public funding, parents would have to pay more otherwise centres will not be able to afford to reopen.

While the provincial government has based the safety measures on what was used for Emergency Childcare Centres, the coalition says these cost three times more to run than pre-COVID programs.

“Can parents afford to pay triple their old child care fees. Of course not,” the OCBCC said.

If increasing already high costs for parents is not an option and refusing to increase workers pay is not an option, the coalition is calling for a move to make childcare publicly funded.

“As the old childcare campaign slogan goes: Parents can’t afford to pay, educators can’t afford to stay, there has to be a better way.”

The coalition has a comprehensive report on a childcare plan for Ontario to address the need for more funding, which will allow for better economic and social recovery from the pandemic.

Toronto Councillor Joe Cressy also commented on the plan to reopen, saying “childcare was already unaffordable and inaccessible before COVID. This could make it worse.”

In Toronto, the average childcare fee for infants 18 months and younger is $96 daily fee, for toddlers it’s $90 and for preschoolers it’s almost $70.

On June 9, Lecce provided the outline for childcare centres reopening.

The province will limit the number of kids putting children and staff in groups of 10 or less day over day.

All children and staff will be screened for symptoms prior to entry and there is a no visitor policy. There will also be the removal of all toys that could spread germs.

Lecce added that each centre must have a response plan in place if a child, parents, or staff are exposed to the coronavirus. All plans require training, reporting, and support from the local medical officer of health before reopening is permitted.

The child care settings must keep daily records of all attendees in order to support contact tracing and enhanced cleaning protocols must be implemented.

Leece added that the province will be stepping up inspections to ensure compliance and safety, with fines being given up to$1,000 per child if failing to meet standards.

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