The following letter was sent to Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Derrick Mombourquette today on behalf of early childhood educators working in child care centres across Nova Scotia, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Early childhood educators are asking the minister for a smaller staff-to-children ratio, lower classroom capacity limits, defined cohorts and larger spaces, to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 within child care centres.
Dear Minister Mombourquette:
Early childhood educators have become a key piece to maintain essential public services in the province, especially now as we are experiencing the highest case numbers since the onset of the pandemic. Without their contributions, many essential workers would be unable to provide the services Nova Scotians must have during this time of crisis.
While everyone else is required to work from home, stay out of schools, maintain masking and social distancing protocols, and reduce contact with people outside their homes, early childhood educators have been mandated – without any voice in the decisions made – to remain at work in child care centres.
That work will include providing space for an unknown number of children, with unknown care and education needs, and who will introduce greater risk of contact with the virus to staff and the children.
Last week, the Premier finally acknowledged the critical role of early childhood educators in our society – but words of gratitude are not enough.
To continue providing child care as an essential public service, as dictated by the provincial government, early childhood educators are imploring the government to take immediate action on two issues that will reduce risk for children and early childhood educators in centres.
- Immediately lower the group size (ratio) of classrooms and reduce the number of defined groups (cohorts) within child care centres
- Find larger spaces for care to be provided with additional distancing between children
Staff-to-children ratio, classroom capacity and defined cohorts
COVID-19 moves with people, and limiting its spread requires a reduction of the number of contacts within classrooms and cohorts within the centres. We implore you to immediately reduce the numbers in each child care centre to a maximum 50% of licensed capacity for each classroom.
Also, centres already have established cohorts as per the guidance document sent to them by Public Health. Those cohorts must be maintained. Changing or increasing the number of children in those cohorts will unnecessarily increase the risk. These combined measures will reduce the potential spread of any outbreaks within child care centres.
Larger spaces to allow safe distancing
The physical space available to each class or cohort varies by facility, but regardless of the current configurations, larger spaces will allow for more distancing and less risk for children and early childhood educators. While much of the province is in lockdown, countless buildings are sitting idle, including public schools and municipal recreation centres. We urgently call on the government to make use of these empty spaces to allow classes and cohorts for essential workers and those from smaller childcare centers to utilize this infrastructure and enhance our ability to keep the maximum distance between children.
CUPE Child Care Sector Coordinator
CUPE Nova Scotia is the second largest union in the province with more than 19,000 members. CUPE represents approximately 200 early childhood educators working in child care centres in Halifax and Bridgewater.