B.C.’s daycare centres will not be required to reopen their doors on June 1 as the public schools have, but the province has issued new health guidelines that may pave the way for some to relaunch in a safe and sanitary manner.
According to the new guidelines, daycare centres who choose to reopen will have to have a plan to encourage hand-washing, as well as protocols for avoiding close gatherings of large groups of children and the use of outdoor space to allow physical distancing.
State for child care minister Katrina Chen said the decision to give the choice of reopening to each centre is based on the diversity of daycare models in the market - where there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
“I’ve heard from small childcare providers who, for example, have a senior at home or a family member with health concerns,” Chen said. “They may not feel safe to reopen, and that is up to them.
“It is very important that child care is not mandated to reopen. It’s really up to childcare providers to reopen or to return to their more-regular capacities depending on what is best for their operations while following guidelines of public health.”
However, Chen added she hopes the new guidelines will encourage more child care operators to reopen, since the province’s plan to relaunch the economy will require more people to return to work - meaning people will need child-care services.
Meanwhile, B.C. chief medical officer Bonnie Henry reiterated that — while schools will reopen and daycares will be encouraged to do so — the same will not be the case for playgrounds because of the facilities’ potential of becoming hubs where disease can spread.
“There are still challenges,” Henry said. “Some parts of the school playgrounds absolutely will reopen; that’s where you can have outdoor learning, and that will be very important. What we are trying to look at is, how do we ensure that children aren’t given the opportunity to transmit the virus between each other… So it’s unlikely all of the playgrounds will be reopened for all uses, but we will certainly look at how spaces around schools and daycares can be used safely.”
About 2,600 child-care centres stayed open during the COVID lockdown that has shut down much of B.C. since mid-March.