Pohutukawa preschool

THE numbers are small, but pre-school children of essential workers have started trickling back to early childhood centres this week, with at least one school opening yesterday.

A sudden change in policy on Friday has meant that preschools could open from yesterday, although most said they would be open only from today, and with limited numbers.
On Friday, the Ministry of Education did a U-turn and changed its opening date for preschools to yesterday. Schools are still opening today under alert level three.

Only one early childhood centre appeared to be open yesterday, Pohutukawa Preschool.

Owner Nicole Fleming said 30 children were enrolled for this week and distancing rules would be enforced meaning children would be divided into 10 per bubble, with 16 teachers, a manager and a cook on duty.

“We have got a lot of parents who work as doctors, nurses, midwives so we cater for the shift-working families, and farmers’ children, all those essential workers who are back at work now,” she said.

Ms Fleming said they had a busy weekend getting ready for opening today after the education ministry changed its ruling on when centres could open.

“But everyone is really loving it and we have been in this morning; the kids are all smiling and happy and having fun, so it was really nice to see.”

Little Orchard Preschool said it was opening today and was expecting nine children who would be looked after by five teachers, plus a management team of two.

Centre manger Karla Goddard said they were expecting numbers to grow as families headed back to mahi.

“We will have a total of 14 on the 4th of May, with staff rosters changing to suit the increased numbers.”

Coastlands Preschool manager Brenda Stewart said they would be opening today with lower numbers than usual, two under-two children attending in a bubble with three teachers and seven over-twos attending with three teachers in another bubble.

“We don’t expect numbers to increase as the [Ministry of Education] says that we have to keep the same bubbles,” she said.

“We would normally have up to 70 children split into two rooms with nine to 10 teachers in the over twos. We have up to 22 children in the under twos, split into two areas with eight teachers.”

Michelle Maddren, head visiting teacher at Bizzy Buddyz, which offers home-based care, said some of their educarers had been looking after the children of essential workers during alert level four.

“They have only been looking after one family of children. But as of today we can look after a little bit more; we can have up to four children with one educarer.”

Central Kids Early Education was also opening its early childhood centres and kindergartens, which are situated through the Eastern Bay.

Chief executive Donovan Clarke said it had been a huge task opening as their staff had to meet a number of public health requirements and give reassurance to parents and caregivers.

“I don’t think the full impact of Covid-19 has fully been felt, there are a lot of families struggling and a lot of people have lost their jobs, so we are there to support those families if they need care for their children.”

Mr Clarke said they were also not expecting huge numbers this week “but they will increase quickly as we move towards alert level two. We have got to remember the bubble is limited to 10”.