Starting April 1 many childcare centres in Penticton will only be available for essential service workers. The move is being made to support essential workers and ensure that others stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

Childcare service in South Okanagan to serve just essential service workers

On April 1, OneSky childcare centres will only be available to essential service workers

Five childcare centres in Penticton and three others in the South Okanagan are now closed to most parents.

OneSky Community Resources has announced that a handful of their eight childcare centres in the South Okanagan will only be open to essential workers from March 30 to May 29 amid the COVID-19 pandemic..

The organization plans to resume childcare operations earlier if the province rescinds the emergency declaration for COVID-19 Crisis. If the emergency declaration lasts until May 29, they will re-evaluate the situation then.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Here’s what is considered an essential service in B.C.

OneSky operates five childcare centres in Penticton, two in Oliver and one in Keremeos. In total, they normally provide care to approximately 260 children.

Today (March 30), all of their childcare centres are closed completely. On April 1, they will re-open to essential service workers only. OneSky will be opening 3 or 4 of their childcare centres to essential workers, depending on demand.

“We’re really trying to follow what the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, is saying. That was the reason for us saying ‘look, we’re going to close our regular service for ten weeks and we’ll re-evaluate on May 29,’” said OneSky executive director, Tanya Behardien.

“Our decision here was that we needed to bring one piece to a close so that we can really focus our efforts on how we can help families who are working in essential services with children.”

Behardien said that many people who are not essential service workers had already pulled their children out of day care to follow the orders of provincial health officials.

Dr. Bonnie Henry has advised that all parents who can, should care for their children at home. She also recognized that while some facilities may close, childcare services can be provided in a safe manner for those families whose parents work in essential services.

Behardien said that all OneSky childcare facilities are taking every necessary precaution to provide safe services to essential service workers. Today’s complete closure was to ensure that all health and safety measures were completely met.

OneSky childcare facilities are also licensed by Interior Health and they continue to follow all regional and provincial orders to safely operate at this time, said Behardien.

In addition to extensive deep-cleaning, large spaces are also being provided where children are separated into smaller than normal groups with more space per child to ensure proper physical distancing protocols are met.

Essential service workers needing childcare were asked by OneSky to fill out an application for services. However, there is still space for essential service workers who were unable to complete the application to enrol their children, said Behardien.

Families of children whose parents are not essential service workers will retain their childcare space(s) during the pandemic, and can expect normal childcare services to resume once the pandemic passes.

If you have questions, OneSky asks that you contact tanya.behardien@oneskycommunity.com.

READ MORE: At-home learning for SD67 students to begin April 6

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