1 Year Ago……..
There are certain things you could never even imagine having to experience – for us as an organization – a global pandemic was one of them. It is hard to believe that a year ago we were dealing with the initial impact of COVID-19 and the announcement that we were in the midst of a world pandemic. We were all so distressed trying to come to terms with what ‘COVID’ meant and quite honestly, the fear of the unknown was terrifying.
The head office team was called for an emergency meeting that day to discuss what was transpiring and seeing the mass withdrawals coming in, we became increasingly aware of what was barrelling towards us. Many of our families reaching out to us asking the questions, we just didn’t have the answers to. There were feelings of being so alone in the decisions we were having to make as our licensing bodies and the provincial government were also scrambling to find the answers. That day, Friday, March 20th, 2020 after listening to the news conference, as we did daily, we were left deflated. As once again there were no answers or confirmed support provided to the childcare sector and we knew we had difficult decisions we had to make. The tears we shed as we collectively decided to shut down six centres indefinitely with the possibility of more and then having to send layoff notices to our invaluable staffing team. It was the darkest day of our organization to date; the instant rush of emotions, sadness, anxiety and fear of the unknown.
However, when all seemed dire, the provincial government came to our rescue later that night with immediate relief and the outlook was a little brighter come Monday. We were given Temporary Emergency Funding that allowed us to remain open, keep staff employed and to hold spaces for families without payment and fear of losing all that Creative Kids had become. We felt it was our duty to the community to support those who required care and for a safe space for children to attend. We were able to re-open 3 of the 6 closed centers after 2 weeks and offered employment opportunities back to our staff that were able to work. For most of the early COVID days, there were more staff than children in the centers. Imagine, an 8000sq ft child care center having 1 child attend daily! Our intention was to have available child care for Essential Service Workers, and keep as many of our staff employed as possible.
Creative Kids stepped up to the plate and navigated their way through unchartered territory for our Early Childhood Educators, families and local businesses across the communities we service. We continued to provide high quality experiences and care for families amidst a health crisis – this was and still is no small task. Living through something like this is much different than actively working through it. We did not have the option of working from home and staying away from others. The idea of social distancing within the childcare industry is quite impossible.
From the very beginning, it was important for us to communicate with our families – knowing we didn’t really have any more information than they did, we shared what we did know. And we knew we were a team, and collaborated daily on how to move forward and navigate through the jungle known as COVID without a compass or a flashlight ….. Parents were anxious and fearful, wanting to know how we could keep their children safe – yet also wondering why their child couldn’t attend if they had a runny nose. It was a daily grind to keep open communication, positive outcomes and staying true to the organizations newly formed protocols, policies and procedures. This is when Watch. Learn. Grow. Came to be – Creative Kids’ very own YouTube channel! We quickly came together and planned the content and the very first episode aired on April 14th and carried on for 32 episodes until the end of June. We had no idea how to do this until we did it! It was so important to be able to reach our cherished children during this time that they were all at home and missing their beloved teachers. It gave us immense fulfillment at the outreach of support and acknowledgement of our efforts to connect with our families.
Although not often noted, Early Childhood Educators along with other essential workers such as health care providers, first responders, grocery store clerks, truck drivers etc. worked diligently and bravely to support the communities and the economy. Our Educators were additionally challenged with conflicting information over PPE in a childcare setting and not being able to social distance, all the while wiping runny noses, changing diapers, consoling children with hugs and love, continuing to create ‘normal’ quality childcare programs so that their parents could also continue on with their important work. Fear and anxiety were prominent among our own front of the line Early Childhood Educators putting their own health and safety as well as their own families at monumental risk on a daily basis. Masks were soon emphasized to be an important method of reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the public but that message was not being directed for childcare. We took it upon ourselves to mandate the use of masks among our educators within our organization in the attempt to keep them safe – it is still not a requirement within our sector. And through all of this, we questioned constantly if we were doing enough to keep our families safe, our staff safe and our organization afloat.
Once the fall hit and so did the second wave, we were once again thrown into the deep end to sink or swim. We were faced with the cessation of emergency funding and having to solely rely on our current registration to keep us going and this was distressing as an organization. Although numbers did rise, they were certainly not to what they were pre-pandemic. This along with not having enough educators either due to our strict illness policy and/or not yet having our full staffing team return back to work. It was all hands-on deck to ensure ratios were met, COVID cleaning and sanitizing protocols were completed and children were happy and engaged at care.
It was inevitable that COVID would breach our centers and when it finally did, we were faced with additional difficulties. Our overcome health authorities were struggling with the overwhelming task of contact tracing, which in turn made getting prompt information and answers difficult.. We largely had to make the initial decisions on our own which in some cases led us to close programs and centres out of an abundance of caution.
The vast amounts of cleaning and safety protocols needed to meet requirements and keeping everyone safe has been very demanding and strenuous and we cannot say enough how much we appreciate our educators who have stepped up to complete this daily, while they also provide quality care to the children in their charge.
Although there have been some challenging days in-between, we have persevered, navigating a good portion of this pandemic on our own, and we would like to think we have done amazingly well. We are coming out on the other side, with hugs with our loved ones and friends and family gatherings in sight. It has been such a challenging year for all of us, but we have learned so much in this past year.
We are Strong. We are Resilient. We are CK Family!