Anabel Shore, left, Maddox Davis and Kolbie Good-Nicks enjoy crafts at Red Deer Montessori’s preschool Tuesday. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

Some Red Deer preschools won’t open for the remainder of school year

Short notice from provincial government one of the reasons

Some Red Deer preschools have decided not to reopen with just a month left in the school year, and with the short notice provided by the provincial government.

The province gave preschools the green light to open Monday. That notice came about two weeks ago.

That wasn’t enough time to prepare, says First Steps and Beyond preschool director Lynne Harris.

The preschool isn’t opening for the remainder of the school year, and plans to have a drive-by graduation ceremony for youngsters later this month.

Harris said the guidelines included paperwork, an inspection and ongoing measures that the preschool didn’t have enough notice to prepare for.

“By the time we do all that, there would be two weeks left (in the school year),” said Harris.

“It wasn’t just the matter of saying ‘you can open,’ and two days later you can open. It’s not that simple.”

There was also the question of parents who may not choose to send their children back to school.

“Say, if 50 per cent of parents decide their kids will come back to class, then we would still continue online for the other 50 per cent that wouldn’t come back.

“So it was easier to keep status quo and continue online,” explained Harris.

Mana Ajila, owner at Stepping Stones Montessori in Red Deer, said with just one month to go in the school year, she did not choose to open up the daycare and preschool facility.

Ajila said she could’ve opened the daycare portion of the facility sooner, but it came down to the restrictions in place and the high risk of the virus.

“It’s really hard to maintain the six feet of social distancing measures with young children,” she explained.

The school has a capacity for 24 children in one room, and with the new restrictions, they’ll be allowed to have nine in one classroom.

“In terms of business, that’s really hard to manage, as we already have low school fees, so it’s hard to manage the overhead expenses,” Ajila said.

Although daycares in Alberta were allowed to open a while ago, to cater to families with essential jobs, some say they did not receive sufficient time to prepare either.

Erin Fillinger-Blunden, owner at The Nurture Tree in Rocky Mountain House, and Tannis Jeffers, executive director at Red Deer Montessori, agreed they got short notice to reopen.

Jeffers said she had one weekend to plan the reopening.

“I got a call Friday evening at 8:30 (on March 20), so I had a weekend to prepare and bring staff in (on March 23),” said Jeffers.

“And a lot of my regular employees didn’t even want to come in, because some of them are afraid.”

Jeffers said demand is low because some families are fearful of the spread of the virus.

Fillinger-Blunder chalks up the low demand to the pandemic, the temporary layoffs that come with it and people working from home.

The owner said the facility is allowed about 41 children, and has about 25 youngsters enrolled.

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