Early childhood education and care services continue to take measures to prevent coronavirus infection
Early childhood education, pre-primary education and open early childhood education services have reopened as of January 10. The coronavirus situation has, unfortunately, again worsened. Below, we summarise some guidelines for guardians to help cope with the pandemic.
All children have the right to early childhood education and pre-primary education despite the coronavirus pandemic. Preschool education is organized as contact teaching in day care centres or at schools. The coronavirus situation does not alter your child’s time of attending preschool, nor their right to a quality preschool education.
The early education services must be notified of any non-attendance from preschool, as before. The pre-primary education teacher of the preschool group may sign off on absences between one to five days; absences of more than five days must be approved by the day care centre manager. A permission to not attend may be applied for through an informal message over Wilma or e-mail.
The Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Agency for Education, and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) have issued guidelines to cities to ensure safe participation and enrolment in early childhood education and pre-primary education, as well as for the possible eventuality of a continued pandemic. The early childhood education and care services continue to observe coronavirus-related hygiene and safety guidelines.
A general recommendation to wear a mask is in force in Oulu. Wearing a mask is recommended in all indoor settings outside the home whether or not a person has been vaccinated.
Unnecessary close contact will be avoided and infection-preventing hygienic practices will be observed. Despite enhanced hygiene, we will see to it that each child receives the closeness, open arms, and safety they need provided by an adult. We continue to provide high-quality early childhood education, pursuant to existing curriculum plans, while taking hygiene and safety into account.
If a coronavirus infection is detected in a day care centre or with a child minder, the guardians and personnel in that day care unit will be informed immediately.
Only visit day care centres while healthy
Initial visits for beginning early childhood education and preschool attendees and their families will be carried out outdoors as much as possible. Familiarisation with day care centres for new children and families may also be carried out using remote connections as far as possible. Guardians and children may make visits to familiarise themselves with the day care centre’s or the private family day care unit’s interiors, child group, and activities, for example, during what are otherwise closing hours for the centre, or when the other children are out to play. In addition, children may play in the centre’s yard once the opening hours are over. We try to stagger familiarisation visits so as to keep the number of visitors down. You may only visit day care centres while healthy.
Never attend daycare or child minding when sick
Our coronavirus mitigation instructions for children follow those issued by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). It is strictly forbidden to attend daycare or preschool when sick. A child may not be dropped off at a day care facility or a child minder’s if they exhibit clear symptoms of COVID-19 infection. The person dropping off or picking up the child must also be healthy.
THL has issued instructions on how to proceed if a child falls ill or exhibits symptoms potentially associated with a coronavirus infection, as well as on when they may safely return to day care. If a family member develops a respiratory infection, other healthy family members may nevertheless attend day care, school, or work if necessary. In confirmed cases of a coronavirus infection, the health authorities will decide on the extent of the quarantine.
See also THL’s Children and coronavirus website: https://thl.fi/en/web/infectious-diseases-and-vaccinations/what-s-new/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-updates/children-and-coronavirus
Children at particular risk
It is important that guardians ensure children at risk and aged five years or older receive the protection of a vaccine pursuant to national guidelines. The attending physician shall determine whether a child, or a child’s family member, with a severe pre-existing condition or who is treated with immunosuppressive medication therapy, can attend early childhood education.
We are responsible for the healthiness and safety of the early childhood education environment. If children at particular risk participate in early childhood education, special attention will be paid to their participation, and appropriate methods to do so developed in conjunction with guardians and local authorities responsible for communicable diseases.
Minimizing the number of contacts
In day care centres and family day care, we continue to avoid unnecessary physical contact. We recommend designating a single person to drop off and pick up the child, while spending the least amount of time at the day care centre possible, to cut down on the number of contacts. The guardian entering the daycare centre must not have any symptoms. During close contact either indoors or outdoors, we recommend a face mask be worn. Please use the closest door to enter your daycare group as directly as possible. The managers of day care centres will issue more specific instructions on the correct procedures for their own unit.
The presence of people other than children and day care personnel at day care centres will be curtailed. As a rule, personnel will not move between daycare units, but spend as much time as possible with their designated group of children. Through scheduling and staggering, we will practice distancing in the daycare groups and outdoor spaces as much as is practicable, and spend as much time as possible outside.
The Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland has prohibited all public events and meetings both indoors and outdoors. The current slate of restrictions is in force until 15 January 2022. We will make various exceptional arrangements for parent meetings, to include hosting them outdoors, via remote connections, or in small groups. We will make as much use as possible of electronic communication.
Good hygiene habits will prevent infection
Hand sanitizer is available at the entrances of the units and we recommend that everyone uses it when entering the day care centre. Both children and adults will wash their hands both on arrival to early childhood education and before going home. We will also wash hands before a meal, when coming indoors, whenever a sneeze or a cough happens, or whenever hands are visibly dirty. After washing, disposable paper towels will be used for drying.
We will be particularly mindful of good hygiene practices during meals, with staff distributing meals to children. Meals will be organised within each group if possible and not as joint meals for all the groups in the dining room. In the dining room the meals will be organised separately in stages for each group of children.
Intensified cleaning practises are still used in the day care centres and we also make sure that the toys are washed often enough. We will also observe the separate guidelines issued by THL for improved ventilation in early childhood education and care spaces. It is still recommended that children have a separate change of clothes for attending the day care centre/family day care. An important comforter or a cuddly toy can be brought along and taken home at the end of the day.
Discussions concerning child’s early childhood education plan and pre-school learning plan
Discussions concerning the child’s early childhood education plan (vasu) and pre-school learning plan (LEOPS) will be organised during the spring. We will make use of remote connections for these discussions as well. Early childhood education and pre-school education responds to children’s individual learning, development and well-being needs and supports the guardians in their upbringing.
We continue to monitor the coronavirus situation. Changes may happen even in a brief period of time, so we will keep you informed of any changes. With cooperation and attention to instructions, we can ensure the children’s safe return to daycare and preschool together!
These instructions will also be disseminated to client families in early childhood education and care and pre-primary education through day care centres and family day care.
City of Oulu general coronavirus guidelines in English: www.ouka.fi/oulu/english/corona
Miia Kemppi, Director of Early Childhood Education and Care, City of Oulu