Sand play in July 2020, just after the reopening of Tobermory Primary Place daycare.
By Joanne Rodgers,
Bruce Peninsula Press

Bruce Peninsula Family Centre – Lion’s Head

The Bruce Peninsula Family Centre located in Lion’s Head currently has 23 kids enrolled either part-time or full time in the toddler and preschool programs; and 23 part time to full time kids in the school age program. The entire centre on a daily basis is licensed for 50 kids, and while there was a slight decline in enrollment when the daycare was allowed to reopen last year, enrollment is back to almost full capacity. The preschool program has shown a steady increase in attendees since the summer. The infant room has been closed for a full year, there are however plans for its reopening.

Kara Hellyer, Acting Secretary of the Board and parent of a child in the Toddler program, admits she was hesitant at first to send her little one back to Daycare, but she feels very confident in all the strict health and safety protocols mandated by the Board.

Tower building and problem solving at Bruce Peninsula Family Centre.

Health and Safety Protocols Implemented

The infant room was closed since access to the room would mean the class would have to cross another cohort (meaning they would come into contact with another group of kids). 

There is online screening of every child and all staff are screened everyday. Staff are expected to wear masks at all times. There are gentle reminders and behaviour modelling to help the kids understand and follow the rules. 

The increased cleaning protocols, which has now become almost second nature to staff, have contributed to no COVID cases and very little other illness amongst the staff and kids.

Building Improvements Required

The soft-sided enclosure at the building entrance blew away in a winter storm. This area was used to conduct the screening. Since the Centre is a Municipal building, it will be replaced when the weather conditions improve. However, the staff had to deal with losing this space in the short-term. 

With plans to reopen the Infant room, there is the need to install a door to the infant room from the outside. Work is expected to start shortly.

Lack of Fundraising Activities

One of the major challenges is the inability to hold their usual fundraisers including their two major events; the Taste of India supper raises between $4000 to $6000 and the Civic Holiday Street Dance raises about $5000 to $7000. 

While the Wage Subsidy offered by the government has helped to support salaries, the Centre relies on their fundraising activities to fund the needs of the Centre. Fundraising activities provide the safety net to cover such expenses as kitchen upgrades to meet code, blinds, and most recently a new dryer; and pays for toys, equipment, craft supplies and other much needed supplies.

Hellyers Foodland invited their customers last Civic holiday weekend to donate to the Centre. However with both the Indian Supper and the Street Dance events looking unlikely this year, the Centre needs to consider other avenues for fundraising; one idea being a Curbside Dinner. 

Staffing

Currently the Centre has five floor staff, a supervisor and a cook. Each program has a requirement under the Child Care and Early Years Act (CCEYA) for the required number of staff in each program. Infant ratio is 1 educator to 3 infants, toddler is 1 educator to 5 toddlers, preschool is 1 educator to 8 preschoolers and 1 educator to 13 school age children.

Hellyer expresses her appreciation to “staff for their heroic work in dealing with the additional duties related to COVID and for stepping up to support the community in such an uncertain time.”

Former staff and Board members still offer their support to the Centre, which allows the current staff and Board to draw on their expertise and learn about operating the facility successfully.

Staff Vacancies

With the reopening of the infant room there is a position for a full time staff member. A current preschool teacher is going on maternity leave, so a replacement is required for that period. Additionally there are positions available for a second teacher in the school age program, as well as part time support staff for the summer.

Walking down the bunny trail at Bruce Peninsula Family Centre.

Opportunities on the Board

The Bruce Peninsula Family Centre is also looking for families to join the board. Becoming a Board member is an opportunity to get involved in offering quality child care to local kids as well as to learn more about the operations of the centre. 

Currently the Board meets virtually. In order to keep their non-profit designation they are recruiting to fill the positions of President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and members at large. Current board members are fulfilling these duties by working out solutions monthly, but it is not sustainable in the long-run. There is a requirement that 50 percent of the Board Members have a child attending daycare or on the waiting list for daycare.

Persons interested in joining the board, applying for jobs, or wishing to have your child attend day care can contact the Centre via email ([email protected]) for further information.

Tobermory Primary Place 

Tobermory’s Primary Place Day Care made a commitment to the community that they will provide daycare year-round to the best of their ability. They continue to operate in the COVID-19 era with lower enrollment, less staff and reduced hours.

Decrease in Enrollment 

With the onset of the pandemic and the changes in work environments, parents readjusted their schedules and/or opted to keep their kids within close family units. The demand for full-time daycare dropped off drastically, as some families use the day care primarily as an avenue for socialization for their kids. Currently there are only four kids enrolled in the toddler/preschool program. Pre-Covid, 8 to 12 children would be registered. The after-school program has only three kids, a drop from five to seven kids. At this time there is also a shift in the number of children residing in the area.

Staff Reductions

Andrea Munn, Supervisor of the Tobermory Primary Place, says that organizationally no one wanted to reduce days and hours of operation, but the Daycare moved to two days per week due to lower demand for childcare and financial reasons. Currently, only Munn and a cook are employed. In regular times there were three full-time and one part-time staff. 

Successes

Reduced overall illness and no COVID-19 cases has made this a success story even with all the additional challenges. This is attributed in part to the increase in cleaning and safety protocols. 

Planting in the garden at Tobermory Primary Place daycare.

COVID-19 Procedures and Challenges

While programming has not been overly impacted, the reduced hours spent with the kids present challenges to keeping up with the curriculum and skills development. Also due to sanitizing limitations, some of the sensory items are not being used. 

The biggest challenge is continually changing their procedures and practices to reflect the current policies from the Province. One example is screening, for the reopening in July 2020, all screening had to be done in person, by someone not working with the kids, outside the building, with the screener wearing full PPE, taking temperatures of staff and kids entering the facility. Later the requirement changed and they were able to use an online form for screening. Now they are back to screening at the door. Munn received a notification from the Province on 20 Feb, a Saturday, about updated screening regulations.

Fundraising deficit

The inability to run fundraising activities such as the Tobermory Trail Race Weekend, the bottle drives and other events, amounted to a loss of about $10,000 to daycare revenues.

Building and Water issues

The building is plagued by low water supply issues and flooding. The Municipality is actively addressing the intermittent water supply by having plumbers and the water company look into the problem. Munn praises the Municipality for stepping up to resolve the issues.

There has been concern about the future of the daycare. Munn says they are definitely staying in the community but are at a crossroad. They are in discussions with the County and Municipality about the possibility of a major renovation of the current building or a relocation.

Employment Opportunities

Tobermory Primary Place is looking for Early Childhood Educators, ECE students or persons with relevant experience working with young children, for their spring and summer programs.

For further information on the services or opportunities, contact the daycare via email ([email protected])