On June 25, First Policy Response hosted a thoughtful discussion featuring policy experts and practitioners on the implications of reopening childcare centres and schools for parents and their children. Our panelists highlighted the importance of collaboration between all levels of government and other stakeholders to ensure that parents can go back to work and children can go back to learning.

Here are some comments shared by our ‘Kids, Care, and COVID-19’ town hall panelists. To watch the full video town hall, click here.

Carol Campbell, Associate Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
“The government announced three scenarios: as near to possible as normal school reopening but with public health measures, a blended approach, or continuing remote learning. The funding is simply not adequate to meet the three scenarios. We don’t have universal broadband. We don’t have one-to-one devices for every student or every educator. We don’t have skills that are structured around single desks in isolation. So overall, they’re the right scenarios [but] there’s a lot of details to be worked out. I wish they had been announced a bit sooner so that we’re wearing in this situation coming into the summer holidays. But I am confident that everyone will pull together to make this happen.”

Simon Harris, Policy Coordinator, Ontario Student Trustees’ Association
“I’m no medical expert. I can’t speak on behalf of medical experts when it comes to epidemiology. I’m no safety expert either. But what I am is a student who actively participates in the system. I know that if anything is going to come first, it’s going to be safety. As much as it’s important to focus on going back to school, it’s difficult to be in a learning scenario that actively supports every student without guaranteeing their safety.”

Elaine Levy, Vice President of Family and Child Care Services, WoodGreen Community Services
“One of the things that positions the childcare sector differently is that it’s not publicly funded. As we look at all of these increased expenses for staffing, for PPEs, for cleaning, for all of the safety measures that we have to put in place, if the funding model isn’t seriously addressed, there’s no way we can expect parents to cover those fees. Childcare fees in Toronto are already the highest in the country. We really want to get back to serving our families. We look forward to welcoming back the children and the staff. And we also really are looking forward to trying to elevate the conversation beyond all of these regulatory pieces to really be able to focus on the pedagogy, which is really the heart of early-learning.

Monica Lysack, Professor, Early Childhood Leadership Degree Program, Sheridan College
“What we’ve been doing for childcare up until now, hasn’t been working. We can look around the world and we know that Canada ranks last [out of OECD countries] in terms of our investment and childcare and in terms of our structure and how we support families. We can look at those OECD countries and what they’re doing and learn from that and move this forward in a way that is lasting. For any officials that are listening… there are no shortcuts. You have to do the right thing. You have to do the hard work. We have to eventually build a childcare system that supports children and their parents.”

Comments have been lightly edited for clarity.

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