Last week’s announcement from Children’s Services Minister, Rebecca Schulz regarding benefits for childcare in the province was welcomed news to preschool operators.
The details included $4.25 million going to support families with children attending licensed preschools. It means eligible families will receive $125 per month to assist with fees for childcare. Previously, subsidy funding was only available for licensed daycare, family day home, and out-of-school care programs.
Tammie Comstock with TLC Preschool in Cochrane says, “In the preschool area, we’re feeling like we are being acknowledged as an important part of childcare which has been something that has been advocated from the preschool level for quite a few years.”
Comstock thinks that the announcement will allow families to go back into accessing preschool as an option because they are going to be subsidized. “I think families were having to make a choice between childcare only because preschool wasn’t being subsidized. I think this is a huge opportunity for families to access some more educational-based programs which is exciting for them.”
It was also announced that a wage top-up for preschool employees would be implemented. The province will be directing over $4 million to provide wage top-ups for early childhood educators in preschool. Comstock says, “The wage top-up is something we have been advocating for at the preschool level. The wage top has been quite common in childcare settings for many, many years and we can lose a lot of staff to that because they would rather get that extra additional funds, which we can appreciate. So, the staff is very excited. Some of the teachers have already reached out and been really happy to hear that they will now be eligible for that little bit extra which all adds up right now.“
Comstock says there are a couple of factors that have attributed to the extra funds being allocated to preschool programs one was the new Childcare Act that came out February 1, 2021, and she believes that the government was really listening to what the sector had to say. Comstock feels that “Rebecca Schulz is really hearing what is going on in childcare in Alberta and she has been really amazing to work with.” Plus, as with everything these days, the pandemic altered the childcare landscape and the government really had to listen to what was needed in the childcare industry more than ever before.
So how does enrollment stand at this point for preschool? Comstock says, “We still have spaces available, but I am definitely impressed to see families are ready. They are getting excited to get back into some kind of a new normal for the fall. So, we are definitely seeing things picking up and people ready to engage and get back into education and some kind of routine and structure.”
As for health protocols, Comstock says for the most part they have gone back to what was in place before, however, a lot of things were very similar. They were already washing toys and doing other cleaning protocols it was just increased during the pandemic. The handwashing protocol that was implemented during the pandemic will remain. Comstock says that what is exciting is that they can have a few more children in the program now and parents can visit and masks are not mandatory.
Essentially, fall means that the preschools will return to a new normal with a lot of similarities to what they were doing pre-pandemic.