OUR PLACES

Bay Road Kindy ploughs through pandemic with confidence

Managing tough times: Bay Road Kindy Director Jasmin Williams-Farley, pictured, with educators Tash and Alyssa, says it has been a challenging period. Picture: John Veage
Managing tough times: Bay Road Kindy Director Jasmin Williams-Farley, pictured, with educators Tash and Alyssa, says it has been a challenging period. Picture: John Veage

Puddling through the pandemic path has not been without its challenges for the early childhood sector.

Families' lives have been significantly disrupted because of public health restrictions including mandatory isolation.

Call it a big stroke of luck, but educators at Bay Road Kindy have pushed through COVID-19 with minimal disruption to its services.

What was the most anxious time for Service Director Jasmin Williams-Farley, was starting work at the Gymea kindergarten two years ago when the virus made its inevitable mark.

"I started a week before it first hit in 2020, so my first day was a little different," she said. "It was an unfolding situation. The biggest challenge was maintaining relationships with families."

With parents not permitted to go into the centre, and a string of event cancellations, educators had to work harder than ever before to keep the connections strong.

"We couldn't have Mother's, Father's or Grandparent's days, and parents weren't able to come and see their children settle in. That's where siblings would help out. We also send daily photos online," Ms Williams-Farley said.

"But we have been extremely lucky. We haven't had many staff shortages, and the only time we closed for a couple of weeks was during the Christmas break. We really upped our hygiene practices and we spend a lot more time outside."

During community outbreaks, she said times were rocky for the sector.

"We started to feel our industry was left out. It took a while for the government to come in and give us the gap waiver so families who were choosing to stay home didn't have to pay," Ms Williams-Farley said.

"It gave us less anxiety having fewer children. But we were open for those families who really needed care."

NSW Health recently updated its testing and isolation guidelines for Early Childhood Education Services. Testing and isolation is no longer mandatory, but remains strongly recommended for contacts of a positive case in early childhood settings. Mandatory requirements only apply for household contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case. But if a child shows symptoms they should remain home until symptoms end.

"We now have much clearer information from the government," Ms Williams-Farley said. 'We also received 28 rapid antigen tests so we test our eight staff on site if a family has a positive case.

"Being such a small centre helps. Families have been really good and keeping their children at home when unwell. We're treating it like we would treat the common cold every winter. We ask children not to attend if they are sick, even if they have a runny nose. It's obviously hard on families too but we haven't had much backlash."

She said children had also taken the tough period in their stride, adapting to changing situations with resilience. She also said she would support COVID-19 vaccination for children under five years of age if it was approved.

"I'm of a scientific mind so I believe when the research is done, it would benefit the community just like any other vaccination that is compulsory," she said.