Education, Culture and Employment COVID-19 Updates

Information on Licensed Early Learning and Child Care

Updated: Thursday, March 26, 2020

Information for licensed early learning and child care programs

The Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) is recommending early learning and child care programs in the NWT stay open during the COVID-19 public health emergency wherever possible. We understand that this recommendation might seem contradictory to the instructions to maintain social distancing and the direction taken by schools. 

Child care is considered an essential service and one that allows first responders to report for frontline duty in our hospitals, clinics, fire halls, etc. Without this service, front lines would be significantly impacted. The importance of first responders' ability to report to work is not meant to diminish the important and essential service that early learning and child care programs provide to families.   

To prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 we ask that parents and operators be diligent and keep children home, and in self-isolation, if anyone in the household is showing ANY signs or symptoms of ANY illness or if accessing child care is not essential for parents to complete their duties.  

All licensed early learning and child care programs have strong practices related to the exclusion of children showing signs of illness, excellent cleaning and sanitation practices, and healthy respiratory and hygiene practices. 

The operation of early learning and child care programs is considered safe and encouraged under the following health advice:

  • Early learning and child care programs should require staff and children to follow healthy respiratory and hygiene practices as explained on the HSS website.
  • Children and staff returning to the NWT from overseas and other parts of Canada must self-isolate for 14 days.  
  • All sick children and staff should be sent home, even if they have not travelled. 

The continued availability of licensed early learning and child care programs is critical for ensuring essential workers in the NWT can continue providing services to residents of the NWT throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, including healthcare services. Updates will be provided to providers and parents if the situation changes.

Why don’t school closures extend to licensed early learning and child care programs?

The circumstances surrounding childcare programs are different than is the case with JK-12 schools. Many early learning and child care programs have fewer children than JK-12 classes.

A significant factor in the recommendation to cancel JK-12 school classes was the fact that many school staff were on holiday and out of the territory during March break, and as a result large numbers of school staff would have been required to self-isolate.

There are other benefits of maintaining the operation of early learning and child care programs:

  • It provides a mechanism for separating sick children from healthy ones, through policies requiring sick children to remain home and by promoting healthy respiratory and hygiene practices in learning and child care programs.
  • It provides early learning and child care to essential workers, including healthcare providers.

Will there be financial supports for licensed early learning and child care programs and providers?

ECE will be providing support to licensed childcare programs during the COVID-19 public health emergency to ensure programs are able to remain open for as long as possible and/or re-open at the earliest possible opportunity. These measures include the following:

  • Early Childhood Program (ECP) attendance-based operating subsidy will be provided to licensed early learning and childcare programs, regardless of circumstance (i.e., regular operation, closures or lower attendance than usual due to COVID-19) based on the previous payment amount. This will address their immediate needs to cover operating costs and staff wages.
  • Early Childhood Staff Grant will be provided to all staff working in licensed, centre-based programs based on the previous payment amount. This grant is paid directly to individual staff as a wage top-up, and will flow to all eligible staff, including those in programs that have already closed. 
  • Healthy Children Initiative (HCI) and Supporting Child Inclusion and Participation (SCIP) funds will be provided to existing recipients of both funding streams at the amount provided during the 2019-20 fiscal year, further supporting stability for existing programs. New funding requests may be considered at a later date, depending on needs and available funds.

ECE is also exploring options to fund fixed costs, such as utilities and rent/mortgage, and staff wages currently being supported by parent fees. 

Will licensed child care programs continue to be inspected?

Monitoring of existing licensed early learning and childcare programs continues as an essential service throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Due to the GNWT’s COVID-19 response, Assistant Fire Marshals (AFMs) from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) will no longer be conducting in-person annual fire inspections in licensed early learning and child care programs across the NWT at this time.  

In order to continue to maintain a high level of safety in licensed programs, the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) has provided a fire self-inspection checklist that programs can use to be sure the requirements of the OFM have been met.  

Regional Early Childhood Consultants (ECCs) and AFMs will work closely with programs to ensure compliance and answer any questions licensed program operators may have regarding fire inspections.

Regular, in-person fire inspections will resume once the requirement to self-isolate due to COVID-19 is no longer in effect for GNWT employees.