Coronavirus: PCF reopens all Sparkletots pre-schools except centre in Fengshan

Logistics executive Siti Hajar, 42, accompanying her son, three-year-old Mohd Luthfi, as he had his temperature taken at PCF Sparkletots Preschool@Ayer Rajah in Teban Gardens Road yesterday. Some 21,393 children were back at the Sparkletots centres y
Logistics executive Siti Hajar, 42, accompanying her son, three-year-old Mohd Luthfi, as he had his temperature taken at PCF Sparkletots Preschool@Ayer Rajah in Teban Gardens Road yesterday. Some 21,393 children were back at the Sparkletots centres yesterday, about half the total cohort of 40,000. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Fewer children back at school after four-day closure of centres for professional cleaning

The PAP Community Foundation (PCF) has reopened all of its 360 Sparkletots pre-schools here except for one centre in Fengshan, which will remain closed until April 7. It will reopen on April 8.

The Sparkletots centre at Fengshan Block 126, which was closed on March 24, has the second-largest coronavirus cluster here, with at least 26 confirmed cases. Only the Safra Jurong cluster has more confirmed cases.

PCF chief executive Victor Bay said in a statement that 21,393 children attended school yesterday, around half of the total cohort of 40,000 children. This is lower than the number on March 23, which saw an attendance of 29,632 children.

PCF Sparkletots centres have been facing lower attendance in the past few months as parents keep their children at home or make other childcare arrangements.

Mr Bay said all Sparkletots pre-schools were shut for four days from last Thursday to allow professional cleaning of the premises.

Prior to the professional disinfection, the teachers had been thoroughly cleaning frequently touched surfaces, including toys, sleeping cots and shared learning resources, said Mr Bay, adding that this was "part of a regular maintenance routine that has been stepped up since January to safeguard the well-being of the children".

During the closure, centre principals have instituted enhanced hygiene protocols for all staff, including social distancing practices, and the planning of activities to educate children on social distancing.

All staff, teachers and pupils are required to have their temperature checked three times daily.

The process to check teachers' health on a daily basis has been strengthened, and staff have been briefed on the importance of taking responsibility for their health.

Mrs Genie Teng, whose son is five, was one of the parents who sent their children back to the PCF Sparkletots @ Telok Blangah Block 44 yesterday, as the "teachers have confirmed that they have not come into contact with any of the infected staff at the Fengshan centre".

The 33-year-old administrative staff member said she was informed that the pre-school has been thoroughly sterilised, but added that she hoped teachers would don masks and gloves when taking the temperature of the children, and during mealtimes.

However, she said, masks are not needed all the time. "Parents are worried that the kids might be frightened if teachers wear masks for the entire day, and it may affect their teaching when it comes to pronouncing words, for instance."

 
 
 

Mrs Teng, who also has a nine-year-old daughter, said her helper looked after her son on the days the centre was closed.

Some other parents, however, kept their children away from their respective Sparkletots pre-schools yesterday, saying they were not updated by the centres.

A 27-year-old parent, who wanted to be known only as Ms Sheena, said she did not receive any updates from the PCF Sparkletots in Sengkang South which her two-year-old son attends.

The assistant manager of a student care centre has decided to keep him at home until she receives an update directly from the pre-school.

"I understand that different centres operate differently. I would like to receive updates on what measures the school has been taking, such as social distancing measures between kids," she said.

She hoped that there would be better communication between the centre and parents.

Another parent, whose 20-month-old daughter attends PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Moulmein-Cairnhill Block 10, expressed similar concerns about the lack of updates from her centre.

The 35-year-old, who declined to be named, said: "I sent my daughter to school today because I have to work, but I am worried as I do not know what happens in school.

"More frequent updates will help to allay concerns parents have."


Correction note: This article has been edited to reflect the correct date that the Fengshan PCF Sparkletots centre will be reopened. We are sorry for the error.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2020, with the headline 'PCF reopens all Sparkletots pre-schools except centre in Fengshan'. Print Edition | Subscribe