EARLY childhood institutions have been allowed to operate for a while, even during the wider school lockdowns, but recently, infant schools have been allowed to reopen, and more and more children are heading back into the classroom space. Protocols were established to guide the reopening of these operations, and this week we remind you of a few you should be looking to ensure that your early childhood institution is practising as your little one heads out.
These below are included in the specific protocols for reopening early childhood institutions for children ages 0-5, agreed on by a group, including the National Parenting Support Commission, Early Childhood Commission (ECC), Ministry of Health, and the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force.
Mandatory for workers
• Ensure all staff are aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in children.
• Ensure all staff are trained in universal precautions (managing body fluids) as required by ECC standards.
• Sanitation plan must be updated to include COVID-19 sanitation requirements.
• Sanitation plan should include a regular cleaning schedule for indoor and outdoor furnishings, equipment and learning resources, and adequate replenishment procedures for soap, hand sanitisers and cleaning agents.
• Masks are required for entry to school property; masks must cover nose and mouth fully.
• Masks to be worn throughout the day when physical distancing is not possible. Masks can be removed when teachers are physically distanced from children, such as at the front of a classroom or on the playground as facial expression is important for young children's development.
• Temperature checks upon entry; use a touchless thermometer if one is available.
• Temperatures above 100.4F are considered a fever.
• Wash hands more frequently — follow complete handwashing procedures for at least 20 seconds.
The ECC's ratios should be followed:
• Children 0-12 months: 1 adult to 5 children.
• Children 13-35 months: 1 adult to 8 children.
• Children 3-5 years: 1 adult to 10 children.
Staff should be assigned to the same group of children each day to reduce exposure and cross-contamination.
• Each group of children should have a substitute (other worker/parent) on standby in case of illness.
• Toys, mats, and other shared supplies should be designated to each group and not shared across other groups.
• Utilise outdoor teaching and learning as much as possible.
• Utilise the small group early childhood teaching corners primarily (with 4-5 children in each group rather than whole group teaching. Keep children in the same groups (cohorting).
Mandatory for parents
•If parents/family members in a household are sick or have been in close contact with someone who has been exposed to COVID-19, the centre should be notified and the children should remain at home.
• All children should have a medical certificate of good health prior to school entry.
• All children with chronic illnesses such as asthma, sinusitis, allergies and other flu-like illnesses should have these documented in their child health passport or by a letter from a doctor which confirms the symptoms are not COVID-related.
• All children with other chronic illnesses such as kidney disease, heart conditions, other chronic conditions and those who have had cancer treatment completed should have this documented in their child health passport or by a letter from a doctor, and there should be indication that they are able to attend school.
• Masks should NOT be worn by children two years and under.
• Mandatory wearing of masks for parents/guardians on school property.
• All bags and lunch kits to be stored in designated lockers/shelves.
Include COVID instruction
• Teach children fun and engaging daily hygiene lessons, including how to properly wash hands.
• Teach children to cough or sneeze into the elbow or a tissue discarded into a closed bin and sanitise immediately after.
• Teach children to avoid touching mouth, eyes and nose and to avoid touching other children and their belongings.
• Children who are 3-5 years of age should also not wear masks (not practical).
• Childcare programmes may recommend to the parents of children over five that their child wear a cloth mask and provide information on when masks can be removed.
• Parents to equip children with personal wipes and sanitisers and educate how to use.
• Avoid bringing non-essential items from home to reduce cross-contamination.
• Bring a change of shoes for indoors; shoes worn upon arrival to be bagged and stored for outdoor use only.
• Same parent/guardian should do drop-offs and pick-ups daily, if possible.
• Stagger arrival and drop-off times so that contact between parents is limited.
• Parents should not enter the school building.
• Teachers should receive children outside of the school building.
• Parents should be physically distanced in a line, in a space designated by the school outside of the building, to collect their children.
• Equipment that is required for children's day-to-day use (eg mobility or feeding devices, weighted blankets, headphones) should be cleaned and disinfected at drop-off and pick-up, and should not be used by anyone other than the designated child.
More next week.