June 12, 2020 City of Toronto working to safely reopen licensed child care centres
Mayor John Tory announced today that the City of Toronto is beginning a phased approach to reopening City-run licensed child care centres starting Monday, June 29 with the enhanced health and safety measures laid out by the Province of Ontario to keep children, their families and child care centre workers safe.
On June 9, the province made the announcement that child care centres can reopen as of June 12 and released a set of guidelines that child care operators must adhere to in order to reopen safely. The guidelines can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/child-care-re-opening-operational-guidance.pdf.
Some of the requirements in the guidelines include limiting cohort sizes, having a COVID-19 response plan if someone connected to the centre is exposed to the virus, screening staff and children prior to entering, enhanced cleaning and sanitation, no visitors permitted in the centres, and implementing drop-off and pick-up protocols in a way that facilitates physical distancing. Many of these requirements are already in place at the City’s emergency child care centres and will be applied to other centres in the child care system.
Based on the experience of Toronto emergency child care centres, reopening the child care sector, including City’s Toronto Early Learning and Child Care Services (TELCCS), will need to be gradual to allow operators time to prepare capacity limits on group sizes, and implement health and safety protocols outlined in the guidelines. City staff have conducted an assessment of current TELCCS sites to determine which sites can be reopened with the new guidelines in place. Toronto Public Health guidelines for child care centres will be posted online next week. Inspection is not required prior to reopening.
The Province also announced that emergency child care, and the associated provincial funding, will end on June 26. The City will work with families currently using the emergency child care centres to find alternative arrangements. The Province will continue to cover child care fees for these families until June 26, whether they continue to access emergency child care during this time or have transitioned to another child care arrangement.
The City is also developing a plan for prioritizing families in the event that the demand exceeds the number of spaces in TELCCS. The Province has provided suggestions to all operators to help them prioritize child care spaces, including for children who were accessing emergency child care, parents who must return to work and cannot work from home, and special circumstances.
Based on the provincial guidelines, all licensed home child care providers will be required to adhere to new operational requirements. The City and its child care operators will not charge fees to existing child care families if they do not have access to a space or decide not to accept a space. During reopening, TELCC fees will remain at the same rate as they were prior the closure.
The just released provincial funding plan assumes that through a combination of federal supports, available provincial and municipal funding, and parent fees, the operating costs of Stage 2 will be fully funded with no undue pressure to operators, families, or municipal budgets. City officials are contacting operators today to let them know the funding guidelines are now available and we expect no undue pressure for operators or families.
All child care centres were closed on March 17 under the emergency order from the province to help slow down the spread of COVID-19. On March 31, the City opened four emergency child care centre for children of essential and critical service workers in existing City-run licensed child care facilities staffed by City child care workers. Since then, four additional locations were opened, providing child care for 271 families and 389 children.