SINGAPORE: Pre-schools and early intervention centres will begin to resume classes gradually from Jun 2, beginning with children at the kindergarten level, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) announced on Tuesday (May 19).
Children in Kindergarten 1 and 2 will be allowed to return from Jun 2, while those in Nursery 1 and 2 will follow suit from Jun 8.
Children in infant care and playgroup will be able to return from Jun 10.
“The phased reopening will better enable pre-schools to ensure that staff, children and parents adhere to the enhanced safe management measures which we refer to as ‘COVID-Safe ABCs’,” the agency said.
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COVID-Safe ABCs refer to a series of measures for daily routines in terms of Access, Behaviours and Classrooms.
ECDA noted that supplementary programmes - such as enrichment and early intervention services - where providers move across different centres remain suspended to minimise the risk of transmission across centres and institutes.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and will advise when it is safe to resume these activities,” it said.
Early intervention centres providing the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children, as well as centres on the Pilot for Private Intervention Providers (PPIP) scheme, will also reopen in phases from Jun 2, initially for in-person intervention for children with higher needs, or those who are only attending early intervention centres.
Children who attend programmes at these early intervention centres and who also attend pre-schools, will continue to be supported with interventions remotely to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
“We will work with providers to safely and gradually resume intervention services for these children, with priority for K2 children,” ECDA said, adding that details will be announced at a later date.
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The first two weeks of the reopening of pre-schools and early intervention centres will be used for “strengthening public health awareness and building a culture of COVID-Safe habits among staff, children and their parents”, the agency said.
This, the agency said, will be prioritised over the resumption of the normal curriculum.
Among the measures being taken to restrict access to those with a higher risk of transmission include restricting the entry of visitors, as well as staff and children with a higher risk of infection, such as those with household members on home quarantine order or stay-home notices.
The use of SafeEntry and travel declarations for staff, children and visitors will also be required.
ECDA noted that the one-time COVID-19 swab tests for pre-school and early intervention centre staff are expected to be completed by the end of May.
“During this proactive testing of all staff, we expect some positive cases to be identified. In such cases, we will work with affected pre-schools and early intervention centres to adjust their staffing or reopen later when it is safe to do so,” it said.
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The agency added it is considering the use of a “risk-based testing system” once services fully resume.
“Under such a system, those returning from stay-home notice, for example, may have to undergo testing before returning to the centre,” noted ECDA.
In addition, all staff will be required to wear face masks or shields, as will children above the age of two.
Group activities within classes will also be sized down, and there will be more regular cleaning and disinfection of premises and equipment, ECDA said.
Staff and children will be kept within their own bays, floors or classes as far as possible, and the drop-off and pick-up of children will also be staggered to reduce the interaction of people at arrival and dismissal, it added.
The agency said it is working closely with industry associations as well as others to identify tools and equipment that will help pre-schools to put in place safe management measures.
It noted the Association of Early Childhood & Training Services will facilitate bulk purchases for some items such as disinfectant, cleaning equipment and masks.
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ECDA noted that eligible pre-schools will - until the end of this year - be able to qualify for subsidies of up to 80 per cent from the enhanced Productivity Solutions Grant to introduce approved visitor management systems and automated temperature screening systems.
“ECDA will also look at providing some support for cleaning products and supplies that support ‘COVID-Safe Behaviours’ such as automatic hand sanitisers and soap dispensers, to help pre-schools with the transition to post-circuit breaker safe management measures,” the agency said, adding that details will be released in due course.
The agency added that even as such measures are introduced, parents and guardians should monitor their children’s health and seek medical attention if their children feel unwell, and not send them to school.
“Our COVID-Safe ABC framework introduces strict measures to keep our pre-schools safe. However, with increased community and work interactions after circuit breaker, we anticipate some new COVID-19 cases may arise among pre-school and early intervention staff, children and parents despite these measures and centres’ best efforts,” ECDA said.
“Our priority is to be able to detect and contain any confirmed cases quickly, and prevent new clusters from forming.”