You’ve been daydreaming about the moment for weeks, when the days of never-ending puzzles, colour-in projects and baking left your drained. But the thought of seeing your toddler climbing out of the car, mask over her mouth, standing in line waiting to have her temperature taken before entering her nursery school, you can’t help feeling a knot in the pit of your stomach. Will she be ok? Is it safe to be sending her back to school when COVID-19 infections are now so rampant?
It’s a question many of us with young children are asking ourselves as Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and other child care facilities prepare to reopen. But with COVID-19 lockdown measures still in place, they have to figure out new ways to protect our kids, while also trying to put our minds at ease.
Not an easy decision for parents
The decision to send our kids back to a child care centre or facility is not an easy one for working parents. The Department of Social Development released guidelines on the preparation and planning that needs to be put in place before they can officially reopen last week. But many ECD centres and facilities are complaining about the communication, saying it has been haphazard and confusing. As a result, they’ve had to rely on their own networks to try carry out the specifics.
Adding to the problem is the fact that many teachers and support staff have only been allowed to return to work this week leaving little time put the necessary protocols in place. Furthermore, for many, procuring the necessary supplies is proving to be a challenge.
Joan Tindale, principal of Greenpark Nursery School says that plastic aprons and rubber gloves have been quite difficult to source for her staff, while Anja Fockema of Hug Bug Playschool says they’ve been lucky to have a parent who works for a hygiene company who could organise sanitizers and other cleaning material for them.
Diane Herbst, principal of Tic Toc Nursery School says she found it both difficult and expensive to source 5 litres bottles of sanitizers at first as her suppliers were out of stock.
An official date for the reopening of ECD centres and day care facilities is yet to be announced, but here are some of the ways some are going about doing things in a new way.
- To ensure daily cleaning and hygiene protocols, some centres and facilities plan to open a little earlier so everything is ready for the children when they arrive at school.
- No after-school activities will be allowed.
- To avoid parents and children congregating outside, they’ll allow some flexibility in the mornings and afternoon when you need to drop off and collect your child.
- Children will need to line up with their parents to have their temperature taken before entering the premises. Some schools have already marked the requisite social distance required with fun stickers.
- At Tic Toc Nursery School, they’ve added an element of fun by putting up a large canvas tent painted with fun COVID-19 characters at the entrance of the school premises. Children will have to wipe their feet on a special sanitising doormat that looks like a patch of grass before they step inside where staff will take their temperature before being taken to class by their teacher.
Class set up
- Teachers are setting up classrooms differently – some having organised desk stations with transparent desk dividers.
- Squares or circles have also been marked out with duct tape to allow for social distancing for individual floor activities. Soft toys, fantasy corners, dress up and construction corners which could be difficult to wash and sanitize every day have been removed for safety.
- At Petra’s Preschool, Infant and Toddler Centre, children will be kept in “bubbles” with a teacher in charge. “Each child will have their toys and activities set out for them at their desk by their teacher when they arrive each day,” says Petra Queiros, principal of the centre.
Serving of meals
- At Greenpark Nursery School, food and drink will be served to the children at their desk station by the kitchen staff on individual covered trays. Once the child is finished, plates, cups and cutlery will be placed in a big plastic tub, which will then be collected by the kitchen staff to be washed.
The Department has been firm that all sand and ball pits have to be closed off or emptied. and recommends that only one class uses the playground at a time. However, Tic Toc Nursery School has divided its large playground into baby, toddler and preschool sections with temporary fencing.
“We’ll stagger outdoor play and each teacher will supervise her own class in such a way that they each get a turn to play on different things,” says Diane. “The equipment will be thoroughly cleaned each morning before the children arrive, and also after each break,” she adds.
With all the handwashing that has to happen, each teacher will supervise her own class when it comes to toilet and bathroom routine. No wash cloths will be allowed, and the children will have to wash their hands with liquid hand wash and use paper towelling or “air dry” them afterwards.
Wearing of masks
All teachers are required to wear a cloth mask and|or protective face shield at all times. However, according to Department guidelines children under the age of 5 will not be compelled to do so because it’s so difficult to enforce at that age.
Content editor and writer on Living & Loving, Sonya has over 25 years experience in the media industry. She edited Living & Loving magazine for six-and-a-half years and is the former editor of Longevity magazine. She’s won numerous media industry awards and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of moms and children.
Outside of work, she enjoys trying out recipes, reading crime mysteries and thrillers, practicing yoga, and exploring new destinations.
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