Child care centres, day cares to open next week

HALIFAX: Although Nova Scotians were promised an earlier start date, licensed child care centres and family daycare home are re-opening on June 15.

During a briefing on June 2, Premier Stephen McNeil and chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang confirmed next week’s start date.

“Last week, Dr. Strang and his team advised me that the sector’s re-opening plan was not quite ready,” the premier said. “More details were needed, and because this is about the safety of our children, we asked for your patience while the sector worked to finalize this plan…”

Child care centres will open beginning at a minimum 50 per cent capacity and can move up to 100 per cent if they are able to meet public health’s COVID-19 guidelines for child care settings. Family daycare homes will open at full capacity. All facilities must follow COVID-19 guidelines outlined by public health.

Based on these guidelines, all licensed child care providers are required to have an individual site-based plan in place to support reopening.

“Daycares will communicate directly with families in the coming days about their specific re-opening plans,” McNeil noted.

Government will also provide hand sanitizer and single-use surgical masks to licensed facilities for the next six months.

“We know some families won’t be ready to send their children back to a licenced day care centre right away, we want to tell them that their spots will be held and they won’t be charged and operators will continue to receive government funding until September to cover those unused spaces,” the premier explained.

Families will not be required to pay fees if they cannot access their child care space. Providers will receive funding on a sliding scale until September as they increase their capacity from 50 per cent in accordance with public health guidelines. Families are encouraged to talk to their providers regarding timing of re-enrolling their child in licensed child care.

Plans will include measures such as: increased cleaning; staggered pick-up and drop-off times; limiting the number of essential visitors entering the facility; have children sleep six feet apart during nap time; create groups so the same children are together every day; limit contact with other groups in the centre; and practise social distancing among staff, visitors and other groups when and where possible.

Licensed child care and family daycare homes under an agency closed on March 17. Since the mandated closure, government has provided $35 million to the sector to ensure they are ready to welcome families back when it’s time to re-open.

There are 342 licensed child care providers and 13 family daycare home agencies that support more than 220 family daycare homes across the province.

In May, a sector-led group of licensed child care representatives consulted with more than 2,500 of its members to advise public health on what they require to re-open.

The public health guidelines were created with input from pediatrics at the IWK Health Centre and includes feedback received through a sector-led consultation with more than 2,500 participants. The guidelines provide guidance on how centres can prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19, manage disease outbreaks, advise staff on the use of personal protective equipment and outline public health measures that address physical distancing, hygiene practises, cleaning practises, outdoor activities, and other considerations.