Cork’s creches and childcare centres have reopened their doors to children after months of being apart.
Advised by the Government, childcare providers have introduced a play-pod model as a measure to manage the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks and safety protocols and policies have been followed ahead of reopening.
Baile Beag Creche in Newbury House Family Centre runs both morning and afternoon sessions and has undergone a transformation ahead of reopening and had 32 out of the 58 children from both Baile Beag and Newbury House back through the doors on Monday.
A fogging machine to deep clean between sessions has been purchased and a new backyard has been installed with ground that can be hoovered and misted to allow for sanitization of the outdoor area.
Manager of the creche, Elga Holbrook, said that she was nervous before reopening but when the children ran in the door she was “thrilled to have them back”.
“I’m in my element. I’ve never been so happy to have them all back,” she said.
She said that communication with parents remained open throughout the pandemic and that they were “so supportive” ahead of reopening.
Ms Holbrook reassured parents by sending them snapshots of the children enjoying their sessions.
“It's nerve wracking for parents because it’s been 16 weeks since we had them so once they saw the pictures on the private WhatsApp group they were thrilled.”
She said that the children who are between the ages of one and three all remembered each other after over three months apart and said they were “so happy to see each other”.
A total of 11 children and two staff members are in a play-pod at any one given time in the creche and staff have invested in scrubs and hand sanitizer and a pathway into the sink has also been put in place where children follow the feet on the floor.
“We had to jump through rings of fire to get it right but I would do anything for them.
“We don't just take children, we take families. It’s not just about kids having a four hour session it’s about seeing what the family’s needs are and seeing how we can support them.
"Happy family, happy children, happy everybody. We’re just one big happy family here, I just love it,” Ms Holbroook said.
Owner of ABC Childcare in Douglas, Jess Kenworthy, said that staff were “really positive” about reopening as they were confident all relevant training and safety measures were in place.
“We didn’t know how it was going to go, but we were confident that we knew what we had to do.
"The biggest thing for us was that we didn’t know how the kids were going to react after being out of care for three and a half months but they settled down after coming in and I don’t think we could have done it any better than what we did,” Ms Kenworthy said.
She said that parents seemed happy bringing their children back to the centre and that they were confident knowing exactly what was covered in order to reopen.
Staff underwent Covid-19 training and a specialist walked the creche with staff members ahead of reopening. Hand sanitizer is readily available and regular cleaning of communal areas takes place.
ABC Childcare had a total of 50 children back on Monday and the centre can hold 130 children at capacity.
Ms Kenworthy said that all angles have been covered to reopen “because you never know what teething problems can come up”.
She said she is happy to be back welcoming the children to the centre and that it was “so lovely” to see the smiles on the children’s faces coming through the door.
Manager of Ready Steady Play drop-in creche in Mahon Point Shopping Centre Pearl O’Brien said that the first day back went well and that regulars had come back with their children.
She said that parents had been “so good” despite the fear that still surrounds the virus.
“They’re very scared and there’s so many people out there with underlying health problems too so that’s scary for them but they’ve been so good.”
All seven staff members are back in the creche after undergoing training and are following the required protocols.
She said that she was both nervous and looking forward to coming back but now that she’s back in the swing of things it has been good to be back.