June 12 2020 – Memo from the General Manager, Community and Social Services
The purpose of this memo is to share an update on the reopening of all child care centres, with specific information on the City-operated Municipal Child Care Centres given the provincial announcement on June 9. This is a rapidly evolving situation with a continuous flow of information from the Province to support reopening efforts of child care in Ontario. Children’s Services continues to coordinate and plan at the system-level and within Municipal Child Care Centres to ensure services are responsive to the needs of families.
Provincial Announcement on Child Care Reopening
On June 9, 2020, the City of Ottawa received information from the Province on their decision to allow child care centres to reopen effective June 12, 2020. Following is information that the City has received from the Province to-date on their approach to reopening:
- Starting June 12, child care centres are permitted to re-open, once they have strict enhanced health and safety protocols in place as per Provincial direction, to ensure the safety of child care staff and children.
- Effective June 26, 2020, emergency child care, including associated Provincial funding, will come to an end.
- All licensed child care settings will be required to follow new provincial operational guidance including enhanced health and safety protocols as well as the advice of local public health units.
The Province clarified on June 11 that service providers are not expected to obtain sign-off on health and safety protocols by their local public health unit. When developing health and safety protocols, service providers are responsible to adhere to the guidance set out in the Ministry of Education’s Operational Guidance document and are expected to review information available on their local public health unit’s website. OPH is currently
developing guidance for local providers using the existing emergency child care guidelines and adjusting based on the new Provincial direction.
Children’s Services, in partnership with child care service providers, is supporting the reopening of licensed child care in Ottawa. While local service providers are working diligently on reviewing/implementing the new provincial guidelines, it is anticipated that the re-opening will take time and will not occur on the date of June 12 as put forward by the Province. Licensed child care centres need to make several operational changes that
take time to implement, including developing a COVID-19 response plan, operationalizing reduced ratios and smaller groupings, acquiring Personal Protective Equipment, and training staff. We ask that families be patient with service providers as they ensure that enhanced health and safety measures are in place prior to reopening so that children return to an environment that is as safe as possible.
Municipal Child Care Centres
On June 10, 2020, the City announced a gradual reopening of Municipal child care centres around mid-July (to be confirmed). This will ensure sufficient time to support and transition families accessing emergency care, as well as receive and implement guidance currently under development by Ottawa Public Health as stated earlier in this memo.
Based on an earlier survey of parents, the City estimates that approximately 60% of previously enrolled children would like to return to Municipal child care centres at reopening. The City now needs to confirm the individual child care needs/intentions of parents and assess how the demand can be accommodated within the expected reduction in available child care spaces (due to reduced ratios and other guidelines).
The City also requires time to plan for the reopening of the Municipal child care centres in order to:
- Review and apply the new provincial operational guidance as well as the local guidance currently being developed by Ottawa Public Health;
- Train returning staff on the new guidelines and procedures;
- Acquire the necessary supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
- Adequately prepare and thoroughly clean/sanitize the facilities;
- Transition out the three Municipal Child Care centres currently operating as emergency settings and support essential workers with accessing child care for their child.
Emergency Child Care
The Province has announced on June 9, 2020 that Emergency Child Care and the associated funding will end on June 26, 2020. At this time, no further applications for emergency child care will be processed and families are encouraged to use the Child Care Registry and Waitlist (CCRAW) should they need help finding child care options or need to apply for a fee subsidy.
The federal and provincial governments have put forward programs that support the child care sector through this time. On May 11, the Province announced a Child Care and EarlyON sector sustainability funding approach, which will be in place during the emergency closure period and align with the timing of the Federal COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.
On June 11, the Province released the funding guidance document which provides the
funding parameters that Consolidated Municipal System Managers must follow while
supporting operators and the child care sector during the child care reopening period until
the end of August. The funding parameters can be summarized by the following points:
- Available federal supports in Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan must continue to be maximized.
- Funding will be provided to assist with reduced capacity in child care centres that reopen and increased personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning costs (over and above regular cleaning costs prior to COVID-19).
- Funding will also be provided to support the increased staffing levels required in child care centres for reopening (such as, screening, cleaning, coverage etc.).
- Funding continues to be provided following the sustainability plan principles (i.e. funding parameters during the closure period) for child care centres and EarlyON Child and Family Centres that remain closed in the reopening phase, to support eligible fixed overhead costs and EarlyON virtual programming.
Children’s Services will continue to work collaboratively with our Child Care and Early Years System Planning Advisory Group to determine solutions that support the sector.
The Child Care and Early Years System Planning Advisory Group continues to meet biweekly to focus and identify local needs and measures required to facilitate reopening of child care and early years services.
On June 12, child care and early years providers received a request from the City of Ottawa Community and Social Services Department to participate in a survey. The purpose of the survey is to understand how not-for-profit community agencies are preparing to resume services post COVID-19, including their capacities and expected challenges. The survey results will inform the next steps in the broader City of Ottawa’s service resumption work and will assist the City to identify how it can support community partners.