By: Michelle Poirier

Kinark Child and Family Services announced in June that after 25 years, it would not be returning to provide childcare in Georgina.

Kinark’s announcement left some parents worried that their children would be without before and after school programming, but two agencies, both with over 30 years of experience, have stepped in to fill the gap.

Jericho Youth Services, a non-profit based in Georgina, will be providing before and after school care at Jersey Public School and Fairwood Public School.

And York Professional Care & Education (YPCE), a non-profit childcare agency based in Aurora, will provide the same programming at Lakeside Public School and R.L. Graham Public School.

Cathy Paul, CEO of Kinark, said they made the difficult decision to permanently close their childcare so they could dedicate their focus on their primary programs of child and youth mental health, autism, forensic mental health, youth justice and therapeutic respite.

“We thank families for allowing us to be part of their family’s journey and thank our staff for their dedicated service and caring,” she said in an email.

Some of the Kinark staff, who were working at Jersey PS and Fairwood PS, have been hired back by Jericho.

“We received resumes from Kinark staff, but due to COVID-19 and the uncertainty with school registration, we have hired only five staff in total,” Susan Gorman, Executive Director of Jericho, said in an email.

Currently, Jericho provides free after school programs at Morning Glory PS, Keswick PS, Deer Park PS, Black River PS and Our Lady of the Lake Catholic College School.

Jericho’s Jersey PS and Fairwood PS programs are licensed childcare and will have comparable rates to other childcare centres, Ms. Gorman said.

“All children who were enrolled with Kinark were given priority, and all children on waitlists were contacted and were able to enroll,” she said.

Orsi, a parent of a child who was enrolled with Kinark, said her daughter is starting Senior Kindergarten at R.L. Graham in September.

“I’m very nervous about my kids going back to school and daycare, to be honest, but unfortunately, I don’t have a choice as I need to work,” she said. “So, I’m glad they found another provider.”

She said, signing her daughter up with YPCE was easy and fast, she just had to email the registration form and was approved within two days.

But she is worried about how teachers and childcare providers will deal with COVID-19, especially explaining to the younger children why they have to follow safety procedures, including keeping their masks on.

Students in grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear a mask, and children in Kindergarten to grade 3 are strongly encouraged to wear a mask, according to the York Region District School Board’s (YRDSB) Return to School Plan Fall 2020.

Ms. Gorman said Jerico would follow YRDSB’s COVID-19 safety protocols, including daily health screenings for staff, disinfecting, washing hands, physical distancing, contact tracing and vigilance in looking for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

“We are currently running a small camp on Georgina Island, and we have pride in the fact that we can keep campers safe and provide a fun and memorable summer experience. We will be bringing this same outlook to our new before and after school childcare,” she said.

At home childcare providers are also preparing for the new safety requirements. Tracy Magee has been providing childcare in Georgina for approximately 25 years and expects to get all her kids back after closing in March.
“With the kids coming back to the house after school, there will be steps to make sure they’re washing their hands, sanitizing and being aware of one another,” she said.

Schools will reopen on September 8, and YRDSB has announced that the start date for each grade will be staggered.

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