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‘Not a lot of notice’: many London, Ont., child care centres won’t be reopening Friday

Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018.
Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

It seems many child care centres in London, Ont., won’t be ready to reopen as soon as they’re able to.

The Ontario government announced on Tuesday that all child care centres will be allowed to reopen Friday, under strict guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Co-executive director of London Bridge Child Care Centres, Angela Woodburn, said they had been “eagerly awaiting this announcement” but added that she’s left with a lot of questions.

“The guidelines that were referenced in the announcement [Tuesday] — we have not yet received them. Once we receive the document we’ll make sure that the reopening plans we’ve been working on align with the government’s expectations,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Ontario child care centres to reopen Friday, some parents reluctant to send kids

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Woodburn says London Bridge Child Care Centres has been operating two emergency child care sites but it’s not yet clear when they will reopen all their locations.

“At this point, we’re not looking to open on Friday. Like I said, we haven’t received the guidelines yet so we’re not sure what all will be involved in that.”

Woodburn added that they began hearing from parents and guardians “almost immediately” after the province’s announcement and that throughout the pandemic, they’ve “continued the connection with families” through email, Facebook groups, Facebook Live, and video-chatting.

“The closures have really meant something different to each person. I think there’s a lot of individual situations that everybody is going through. We tried to offer lots of different ways and different times of days to be able to accommodate families as much as possible during this time.”

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London Children’s Connection (LCC) issued an update on its website, also stating they “will not be reopening on June 12.”

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“Yesterday, we heard from Education Minister Stephen Lecce that the reopening of licensed child care can begin as of June 12, 2020,” the statement read.

“At London Children’s Connection, we are preparing for the safe reopening of our licensed child care programs, however, we will not be reopening on June 12, 2020. We are working collaboratively with representatives from the municipality, public health, and the school boards, to help establish our reopening date.”

LCC added that they will be connecting with families “soon” to share information on their plans to “ensure a safe and successful reopening of our child care programs.”

READ MORE: Ontario reopening Stage 2: Groups of 10 allowed, places of worship to reopen amid coronavirus pandemic

On Wednesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce acknowledged that with Friday just three days away, many centres may not be able to reopen that quickly.

“I appreciate some operators will want to take the time to do the proper training to open up and that may take them some days and we respect that,” he said.

The government also said that individual medical officers of health can set their own timelines for the reopening of child care centres in their regions, if they feel Friday is too soon.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Education Minister says plan for reopening child-care centres will ‘keep kids safe’
Coronavirus outbreak: Education Minister says plan for reopening child-care centres will ‘keep kids safe’

Meanwhile, London city councillors touched on the fact that there was “not a lot of notice” given ahead of the latest reopening announcements. The province announced on Monday that it will enter Stage 2 of Phase 2 of its reopening plans starting Friday.

Towards the end of Tuesday’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee (SPPC) meeting, councillor Stephen Turner raised concerns that the council meeting cycle for approvals might not be in line with reopening plans and asked if there was anything council should do to speed up the process “to help facilitate businesses that are permitted to reopen.”

City manager Lynne Livingstone noted that city staff are “reviewing right now what additional flexibility we need to have in place.”

“We’re just looking to see what we can do within our own delegated authorities without having to take additional steps. So I’ll have a better answer for you as we work through that over the next day or so,” Livingstone said Tuesday.

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“I think there wasn’t a lot of notice to municipalities in this phase in order to get our ducks in a row,” Coun. Turner responded, “so thank you. I appreciate what you’re doing.”

“I would agree, not a lot of notice,” said Mayor Ed Holder, “but some potential excitement as some of the business community looks to move forward.”

Is Ontario ready to reopen child-care centres?
Is Ontario ready to reopen child-care centres?

–With files from The Canadian Press’ Allison Jones.