Pre-schools to open in stages, with older kids returning first

When they reopen, centres will have to adhere to safe management measures.
When they reopen, centres will have to adhere to safe management measures.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

Centres must adhere to safety measures such as wearing of masks when they reopen

From June 2, pre-schools will resume general services for children in stages, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said yesterday.

Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 children - five-and six-year-olds - will be the first to return to pre-school from June 2, while Nursery 1 and Nursery 2 children may go back a week later, from June 8.

From June 10, the youngest group of children in infant care and playgroups may return.

In line with circuit breaker measures, pre-schools have been closed since April 8 to most children except for a small group who need care support.

When the centres reopen, they must adhere to safe management measures, such as compulsory wearing of masks or face shields for all staff and children aged two years and older, having smaller groups of children during activities, as well as staggering drop-off and pick-up timings.

Speaking at a news conference of the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 in Singapore, Mr Lee said that as the circuit breaker comes to an end, workplaces will reopen and parents will need childcare support.

Student care centres for older students will reopen fully on June 2, with precautions in place, he added.

Early intervention centres - for children with special needs - will also reopen in phases, starting with children with higher needs or those who attend only such centres.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said yesterday that all other children, who attend both pre-school and programmes at early intervention centres, will continue to be supported with remote learning to reduce any risk of transmission across centres.

"We will work with providers to safely and gradually resume intervention services for these children, with priority for K2 children," it said.

Supplementary programmes, such as enrichment and early intervention services by providers which move across various centres, remain suspended, it added.

Mr Lee said pre-schools are reopening in phases to give children, parents and staff time to adapt to stepped-up measures, and ease the transition for young children.

"While we cannot eliminate the risk of transmission, we can minimise the risks. Therefore, rules and practices in pre-school and early intervention centres will have to change," he said.

For instance, staff and children aged two and older will wear a mask or face shield in school, a practice already in place among those now at the centres.

Temasek Foundation is providing face shields to all 180,000 children in pre-schools and early intervention centres, as well as 30,000 staff.

Mr Lee said that the ECDA will devote the first two weeks of reopening to reinforcing public health awareness and ensuring staff, children and parents develop "Covid-safe" habits. This will take priority over the resumption of normal classes.

He also said pre-schools and early intervention centres will be guided by a set of "Covid-safe ABCs" in their reopening. The guidelines are aimed at ensuring safe access to the centres, and restricting the entry of visitors.

The pre-school community will, among other things, adopt safe hygiene measures, including frequent hand washing and cleaning of premises and equipment, as well as having smaller group activities in a class.

They will also stagger the use of common areas and facilities as well as suspend cross-deployment of staff.

Mr Lee said: "We ask our pre-school community of staff and children and parents not to see this merely as rules and regulations, but measures that are essential to safeguard the health and well-being of all in the centres."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2020, with the headline 'Pre-schools to open in stages, with older kids returning first'. Print Edition | Subscribe