Sat | Oct 31, 2020

‘Who will mind my kids?’ - Parents mulling back-to-work order ponder daycare dilemma

Published:Friday | May 22, 2020 | 12:26 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

Parents and guardians preparing to return to worksites as COVID-19 restrictions ease next month are now mulling over another quandary: whether to risk sending their children to daycare.

Others who have lost jobs or suffered steep pay cuts can’t even afford it.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ declaration on Monday that a work-from-home order will be lifted on June 1 is expected to fire up a sluggish economy that has shed hundreds of thousands of jobs and which is forecast to contract by more than five per cent this fiscal year.

While some companies will continue teleworking arrangements, the announcement serves as the green light for employers to request that staff return to worksites.

But as daycare facilities look to gradually scale up operations, parents who require childcare services are weighing the risks of sending their children outside the safety of the home to be cared for by others.

FEAR OF INFECTION

Najee Stewart, father of a one-year-old daughter, is scheduled to return to work on June 2. His wife may also be back at her workspace as well.

“[My daughter] has been going to the daycare since she was four months old, but now I don’t even want to send her back. She will be mingling with other children, and we won’t know who is a carrier of the virus. As a parent, I’m very concerned,” the father said.

Stewart explained that even if daycare enrolment is reduced, the possibility of his child becoming infected still exists.

More than 60 children – the youngest being two months old – have contracted the new coronavirus. A four-year-old child is among the nine Jamaicans who have died.

For Alexia Jones, daycare is not an option for her 14-month-old child.

Like Stewart, she, too, fears that her son will become ill.

“I’ve been working, and the most I’ve stopped from work since the pandemic is two weeks,” the mother said.

Her plan is to continue asking family members to tend to her son while she is away at work.

Meanwhile, the United-States-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a 60-page document providing guidelines for establishments looking to reopen.

GUIDELINES FOR PHASED OPENING

The report also outlines a “three-phased approach” that childcare facilities, schools, restaurants, and other establishments are required to meet in order to move from one mitigation phase to another.

One of the key guidelines given for minimising the risk of spread in the report is “keeping classes together to include the same group of children each day, and consider keeping the same childcare providers with the same group each day”, the CDC report says.

Scores of local daycares have been shuttered while others have remained open, offering creative distance learning.

Forty students were registered at Little Busy Bee Nursery in March before the closure of schools islandwide in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

Assistant Manager Ezett Johnson said that she has so far received requests from seven parents.

“Next week, we will be going in to sanitise, and we are planning to move some storage items out of a room so we can have more space,” Johnson told The Gleaner.

Manager of It Takes A Village Nursery and Preschool, Mark Marshall, explained that he has only received requests for the upcoming school term in September.

“Until we get a directive from the Early Childhood Commission, we won’t be doing anything for June 1,” Marshall said.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com