With Quebec daycares outside the Montreal area set to reopen May 11, many directors are struggling to figure out how they’ll operate with limited capacity, vulnerable staff members, and a lack of personal protective equipment.
“Mostly it’s a puzzle for them to try to organize the services, because what we’re hearing right now is there’s more demand than they’ll be able to meet,” said Marie-Claude Lemieux, spokesperson for the Quebec association of daycares (CPEs).
“There is a lot that is still up in the air, and I think most directors of CPEs expect to be working through the weekend,” she said.
According to the union representing daycare workers in the province, almost 6,000 staff members will likely not go back to work this week, most of them citing health concerns.
But Lemieux said there has been a surge in demand for spots in most regions as businesses reopen and parents go back to work. She said daycare operators need to figure out how to shuffle around the children of essential workers.
Essential workers have been asked to send their children back to their regular daycare, but if it’s not reopening due to lack of staff, they can keep them in their temporary spot, which limits the number of spaces for other children.
“Right now there are a lot of unknowns,” Lemieux said.
Lemieux said several daycares still don’t have the necessary protective equipment because of distribution delays.
She said those facilities will not reopen until they have the proper equipment. If they’re already serving the children of essential workers, they will continue, but hold off on taking in other children.
Lemieux said the problem is particularly present in North Shore communities, and her organization is working with the government to distribute the PPE.
Parents have been understanding, patient
Angie Mason runs the CPE at the Bishop’s University Campus in Lennoxville, which has stayed open to take in children of essential workers.
She said there will be a lot of turnover on Monday as many former pupils return to the centre, but some children of essential workers stay because they have no alternative.
“Many of our members here have said, ‘You know, I know it’s challenging, and we’ll wait, we know others need the spot’,” Mason said. “We have a great community here at the daycare, the parents are understanding, very helpful, and they cooperate.”
“They’ve been very patient throughout all of the process,” she said.
But Mason said there have been other challenges.
The facility has been adapted to keep children two metres apart, busy at separate workstations, and parents no longer circulate in the building.
But for younger ones, she said it’s been a struggle to console them while trying to keep a distance, diaper changes are more complicated, and Mason is concerned about how the children may perceive educators wearing masks.
“These are times when we are really thinking of the child and their psychological safety,” Mason said.
“For us, the child’s psychological well-being is number one priority,” she said.