Workers, operators and advocates question B.C.'s decision not to close all childcare facilities
VANCOUVER -- Struggles to maintain staff ratios and locate and buy necessary cleaning supplies are just two of the concerns being raised by childcare workers, operators and advocates regarding the B.C. government’s decision not to close daycares during the covid-19 pandemic.
Emily Gawlick, of Early Childhood Educators of BC, told CTV News Vancouver the province could still come up with a system of childcare for essential workers.
“We believe that childcare programs should actually be closed,” Gawlick said. “Early childhood educators are really concerned. They’re scared, they’re frustrated and they’re confused.”
Sharon Gregson, of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, said there’s been no policy rationale for why young children in childcare programs are being treated differently than children in elementary schools.
“It makes no sense to say that childcare has to stay open because people need to send their kids to daycare while they go to work, and yet close elementary school, where there are five-, six-, seven-, eight year-olds. Those children can’t be left at home alone while their parents go to work,” Gregson said.
She said she’s hearing some centres are having a hard time finding the cleaning products they need to follow the current increased sanitation advice, at a time when many stores have seen a rush on disinfectant supplies.
“The sector is in complete crisis, chaos, not knowing if they’re supposed to be open or closed,” Gregson said.
If centres close, she added, the government should take steps to cover any lost wages for workers and ensure parents don’t have to pay for care they’re not receiving during a shutdown.
Amanda Worms, of the BC Child Care Owners Association, said a lot of workers are fearful about whether they will still have jobs going forward, or whether they may get sick. In some cases, staff members have had to self-isolate as well, she added.
“With the state of childcare over the last couple of years with very, very few staff available to us, ratios are becoming a very serious issue,” Worms said. She is also concerned about the new provincial recommendation not to have groups of more than 50 people together at one time.
“In a lot of childcare facilites, we’re licensed for far more than 50, and so it’s very challenging to practice social distancing,” she said.
In Wednesday’s public update, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province is not recommending “blanket” closing of childcare centres “because they are essential services for our parents that work in essential services as well.”
Henry said parents working from home and keeping their kids with them is taking pressure off the system, and more guidelines for daycares will be issued in the coming days.