Childcare centres see reopening as sign that COVID worst is over

Childcare centres have reacted positively to the news that they will be able to reopen when the government lifts the next set of restrictions

On Sunday Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that childcare centres and SkolaSajf would be amongst the first establishments to re-open when it comes to the next relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

Abela said children’s routines had to be put back in place, and that people had to return to work for the country to really return to normality. “In the next set of measures, we will reopen childcare centres and SkolaSajf. This will mean more parents, to whom we gave wage supplements to stay at home with their children [during the coronavirus lockdown] can return to work,” he said.

Bright Sparks childcare centre Manger, Christine Borg, said the re-opening of childcare centres will mean a new way of working with children.

“Our team is happy with the announcement as everyone is eager to get back to work. We know that things are not going to be the same and this causes some uncertainty of what our work will look like. We also know that we will need to work differently and most probably harder when we reopen for the safety of the children and for our safety too,” she said.

Growing Owls Childcare owner Rossanna Rizzo echoed those sentiments, praising the health authorities for their strategy in dealing with the pandemic. “The reopening of childcare centres can be interpreted as a sign that the worst is over,” she said.

Rizzo however said that with discussions between the health authorities and the Childcare Centre Providers Association still underway, childcare centres were still in the dark about what mitigating measures will be put into place.   

She hoped that those measures would not dictate the need to accept fewer children at any given time in the centre. “This would create a problem with working parents, and from our side, on which merits should we decide which child can and cannot attend.”

Borg, on the other side hand, said that apart from guidelines from the authorities, Bright Sparks was also putting into place their own precautions,  such as only allowing the parents to enter the centre one at a time upon drop-off and pick-up, and not to use play resources made from fabric such as dress-up costumes.

“We will abide by whatever guidelines the authorities give us and add them to our plans and practice. I am confident that the abundant amendments we are planning in our policies and procedures will contribute substantially to the safety of the children and that of all the staff,” Borg said.

Teleworking: a role in parents’ decision

Both Borg and Rizzo said that while parents gave no indications that they had reservations about sending their children to childcare centres once they reopened, a deciding factor for many was whether employers would continue to allow teleworking.

“None of our parents have informed us that they would like to decrease their hours or terminate childcare. We will know more about this shortly… it’s a chicken and egg scenario: childcare centres will be open first for parents to go back to work,” Borg said.

Borg, however, said the actual number of children they would have would depend on whether employers continue to allow parents to telework, and whether parents feel they can cope with “such a lifestyle that demands 100% attention to work and 100% attention to educate and care for the children… Added to these, a good part of the day has to be dedicated to looking after the home and possibly pets along with shopping and food preparation.”

Rizzo said the centre was keeping in regular contact with parents, and the consensus was that parents who were not able to continue telework would be sending their children for the usual hours, whereas parents who could continue to telework would be keeping their children with them, sending them to childcare when they return to the workplace. “We are expecting regular attendance to pick up in a few months.”

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