Face masks - EDITOR UPDATE 12 August: The government highly recommends the public wear face masks in public transport and when out during Alert Level 3. Within ECE services wearing face masks will not be enforced.
Below is a copy of the procedures developed by one of our members for operating under Alert Level 3. Thank you to Whenuakite Country Kids! It will of course be constantly updated and improved with experience and based on government guidance.
It is being shared here to help you in beginning to think about and develop your service's procedures. Make sure what you prepare also reflects features of your service such as physical layout of the building (room numbers and room sizes, grounds, and location of shared facilities), hours that you operate, age of children, whether teachers' and owners' children attend, pets, and van pick-up and drop-off for children (tip: don't do this unless children have their own carseats are members of the same children's bubble at the service and the van driver is also part of the bubble and not an additional/outside person).
Note that current political terminology is 'early learning', though early childhood services principally provide education and care. ECE services can go by different names e.g. preschool, nursery, Te Kōhanga Reo, kindergarten, educare, in-home, home-based, etc.
Centre Operating Procedures for Covid-19 Alert Level 3 HS7 Appendix 9
These operating procedures apply during covid-19 Alert Level 3. They are based on Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Education (MoE) advice as at 22nd April 2020. They are automatically superseded should MoH or MoE advice change to require greater restrictions. Should MoH and MoE advice become less stringent these operating procedures shall be reviewed and amended as appropriate.
These procedures shall be validated during a staff-only day on 28th April 2020.
The purpose of this document is to ensure that the centre operates as safely as possible during Alert Level 3.
It is important that children, staff, parents and whānau are both protected from infection and prevented from spreading from infection. It is also important for Whenuakite Country Kids to support our local community. The teaching profession’s Code of Professional Responsibility, and the values that underpin the code, include commitments to learners, families and whānau, and to society. These are continuing commitments, ones that we must fulfil in the safest possible way.
These operating procedures are intended both to ensure that our centre is safe and to give everyone in our community confidence that we are as safe as we can be.
Key Public Health Principles
The two key public health principles that support Alert Level 3 are:
- first to minimise the risk that someone gets infected in the first place, and
- second to limit the number of possible contacts people have if they do get infected, to make it easier to rapidly stop further spread.
MoE and MoH Guidance
The overriding principle for Alert Level 3 is stay at home, other than for essential personal movement and going to work and early learning or school. Parents and whānau should keep their children at home and maintain distance learning where that is possible. Parents and whānau can send children to early learning if they need to.
During Alert Level 3 Whenuakite Country Kids will be open to support our community, but with a restricted roll to meet public health measures.
MoE has announced the following changes to normal ECE practice:
- Children can only attend one ECE service, so where a child has been attending more than one service parents and whānau must decide which service the child will attend during Level 3.
- The minimum licensed indoor space for children is increased from 2.5m2 per child to at least 3m2 per child. The outdoor requirement of 5m2 remains.
- Initially the number of children must be limited to 10 in an early learning bubble, but this can be increased to 20 once all processes are running smoothly, probably after the first week. There can be multiple early learning bubbles on a site but there must be no mixing between early learning bubbles. In ECE, bubbles are up to 10 (later 20) children. Teachers are in addition to the children, but teachers must not be in more than one bubble.
- The maximum number of children that can be in a room (or physical space) is 20, and children should be in the same room with the same children everyday (i.e. no mixing between rooms).
- People at higher-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (e.g. those with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled, and the elderly) are encouraged to stay at home due to lack of ability to physically distance from young children.
- Indoor temperature which is currently a minimum of 16 degrees Celsius needs to be increased to 18 degrees Celsius. Rooms, particularly those where children are sleeping, are to be well ventilated to keep the temperature at a comfortable level.
- Ensure that children have their own food containers and do not give and take food to and from each other.
- A need to regularly disinfect surfaces.
- Wash and dry hands, cough into elbow, don’t touch your face. (WCK note, if you are going to sneeze and there is no time to get a handkerchief, sneeze into your elbow. After sneezing, wash your hands) (Further WCK note; one of our staff has commented “Also I find as a teacher that coughing and sneezing into your elbow isn’t that hygienic if you are picking up children as those germs are then on your clothing. If you cough into your hand then wash and sanitise straight away you’re washing the germs away. Just something I’ve always been wary of anyway.” We think that is a good suggestion, especially for those cuddling younger children and babies.)
- Stay home if you’re sick, report flu-like symptoms.
- Travel restricted to essential, including going to work and to early learning/school.
- School-aged children of staff should not be present at an early learning centre.
How Will we Keep You and Your Children Safe?
Social Distancing and Bubbles
Our floor layout makes it difficult to keep staff and children in more than one ‘bubble’. The entire centre will be one bubble. However, during the day we will try to keep Tui Room and Kereru Room children separate. The two rooms will be mini-bubbles, minimising the risk of spreading infection between age groups. This arrangement will also cater for numbers up to 20 once we are confident that our processes are working really well.
When necessary staff may pick up and cuddle children in their centre bubble.
Within each room staff shall model social distancing. Mat times and other group sessions shall be run with children as dispersed as practicable. Opportunities shall be taken to discuss with the children how infections can be spread by coughing, sneezing and touching.
Children shall sleep at least one metre apart.
Drop Off and Pick Up
Children must be dropped off and collected by one person only.
To avoid congestion and delay in the foyer area we ask that parents stagger drop off and pickup times. Please contact the centre to arrange this.
Parents and whānau dropping off and picking up children shall not be allowed past the front door. Please alert a staff member before leaving your child. Only one family may be on the ramp and at the door at any one time. Please maintain a two metre distance between families. For signing in and out we will have a table at the main entrance. Please bring your own pen for completing the form. If you forget a pen, we will have a stock of sanitised ones available. For contact tracing it is essential that we keep a record of the individual who dropped off or picked up each child. Please print your name on the form rather than using just a signature.
We intend to monitor children’s temperature on arrival, but need to source a suitable thermometer before we can implement this.
Parents and staff are responsible for monitoring their own health and not coming to the centre if they feel at all unwell. Children who display any symptoms must be kept at home.
Isolating Sick Children and Adults
If an adult or child becomes sick at the centre they shall be isolated and appropriate people contacted. This is our normal procedure for any sickness. The isolation area is the Centre Supervisor’s office. It must be ready for use. A bed from the sleep room, with a cotton sheet, shall be placed in the isolation area. A thermometer shall be available.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
MoH and MoE advice is that gloves and face masks are not required for normal activities. Should staff feel safer wearing gloves during the day they may do so and WCK gloves may be used for this. Anyone wearing gloves for their own protection must remember that the outside of the gloves may become contaminated, so gloves being worn must be sanitised in the same way as bare hands. Gloves must be worn when required by our normal procedures.
Hand sanitiser is provided at the front entrance and around the centre. Hand sanitiser shall be kept out of children’s reach so they do not drink it. Properly washing hands with soap and water is recommended, but when this is not possible hand sanitiser shall be used:
- before touching the gate and front door,
- before eating,
- after touching any potentially contaminated surface,
- if contamination is suspected.
Other Hygiene Practices
Please wash your hands and your children’s hands before you leave home for the centre.
Staff shall ensure that children wash their hands when they arrive and just before they leave.
The following will be removed during Level 3:
- toys and equipment that cannot be easily sanitized,
- food role play items,
- play dough,
- finger paints,
The centre shall be cleaned daily at the end of each day. During the day door handles, commonly touched surfaces and in-use resources shall be sanitized regularly.
Children shall be well spread out at meal times. If necessary meal times will be staggered. No food or drink may be shared. Children’s hands and faces must be cleaned both before and after eating. Staff shall eat separately from the children, remembering to wash their hands first.
All normal hygiene practices shall be followed.
What if the Centre is Exposed to COVID-19?
If we believe that someone at the centre has COVID-19 we follow our normal processes. These are detailed in document HS27 Injury and Illness, in Appendix 2 to the Licensing Criteria for ECE and in document HS34 Notification.
If there is a confirmed or probable case linked with Whenuakite Country Kids, we will be advised of that by the Medical Officer of Health.
Our regional Ministry of Education staff will work with us and local health authorities to agree a plan. That will happen quickly and support will be provided to assist us to communicate with and support our parent community and staff.
If the person or persons who are a confirmed or probable case have worked in or attended our centre when they could have been infectious (which could start 2 – 3 days prior to having symptoms) we will be closed for at least 72 hours to allow time for contact tracing and a clean of the service to align with Ministry of Health guidelines.
Close contacts at WCK would be anyone who had:
- face-to-face contact in any setting within two metres of a case for 15 minutes or more
- having been in a closed environment (eg, hospital waiting room) within 2 metres of a case for 15 minutes or more
Close contacts will be required to self-isolate and will need to monitor for symptoms.
Supporting Contact Tracing
To support contact tracing we must keep records of who was at our service when. We have talked about the pick up and drop off process earlier. Remember that it is important that people record their names and don’t just use a signature. We already keep records of staff attendance. We will ensure that any other adults, such as necessary tradesmen for repairs, also print their names when they book in and out.
Will the Centre be Fully Staffed?
We must maintain normal adult/child ratios as required by the Regulations. We are likely to have more staff than the minimum required because of the additional cleaning and sanitization needed during the day.
With only small numbers of children at the centre, many of our staff will be working from home. They will be providing on-line resources and activities for children at home, doing professional development and undertaking a range of other activities to support the centre and improve their professional skills. They will be busy. We are delighted that we are able to keep all staff on full pay.
Some of our staff must or should stay at home, for reasons that include:
- They must stay at home if they are sick with COVID-19, or unwell generally.
- They must stay at home if they need to self-isolate, as per Ministry of Health guidelines, due to recent travel or close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
- They must stay at home if they are caring for dependents who need to self-isolate, as per Ministry of Health guidelines.
- They may choose to stay at home if they, or someone they live with, meets the definition of a vulnerable person, including those with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled, and the elderly, as described on the COVID-19.govt.nz website.
Fees and Subsidies
During Level 3 your child’s place at our centre will be protected even if they do not attend.
Normal fees will be charged for attendance. No fees will be charged if your child does not attend. For children attending, normal notice of any non-attendance will be required.
The Ministry of Social Development has advised that the childcare assistance subsidy will be restarted from the date each eligible child returns to a service. The subsidy is based on attendance by the eligible child. The fact that a service re-opens does not in itself restart the subsidy.
Some tips and resources
Daily, use the hazard and safety identification checklist (available as a printable, and it can be adjusted to any service type).
Consider your mental health and the mental health of each team member. Support each other as well as taking care of yourself when making the adjustment to being back at the workplace - an excellent article for you and your team is: 7 tips to get back into the swing of things
Topics that may come up include:
- How to empower children while distancing e.g. how about children as photographers, giving access to cameras to allow children to document their interests and take pictures etc
- Parental separation - disclosure of information about a child, collection and other issues
- When parents insist on their unwell child attending
- Ensuring sick children do not attend - this is a good article to share with parents Use of painkillers for fever and hiding symptoms
- Managing drop-offs and children who will find this emotional (and may or may not show this)
- Lunch-box ideas - direct link to an article to share with parents
- Children's mental health - mindfulness and relaxation techniques
- Giving children choices - how and why
- Telling parents what they want to hear - or telling them the truth?
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