High absentee rates and staff shortages are causing some child care centres to close or reduce their hours.
KidFit 60, a childcare centre for pre-school aged children with a focus on being active, is experiencing a large number of kids away sick.
“Last week, I’m going to say we had about ten children gone from the downstairs room and 16 gone from the upstairs, so a lot of absences lately,” said Kaylyn Davis, an early childhood educator at KidFit 60.
That’s almost 40 percent of their program, extreme numbers other daycares are also facing.
“This week, especially today, we are at 50 per cent, so we have had a significant increase in absenteeism in children,” said Lynda Raible, executive director of Earl Grey Children’s Centre.
A recent survey from the Manitoba Child Care Association found 87 per cent of facilities are seeing high levels of illness.
On average, a quarter of children were out sick, but some reported absentee rates as high as 60 per cent.
“I have been in the early childhood system for over 30 years. I don’t think I’ve seen this level of illness in my time. Like this is really significant,” said Jodie Kehl, the association’s executive director.
Kehl said the most common illnesses reported inside childcare facilities right now are the common cold and flu, with RSV and COVID-19 contributing to the problem.
On top of absentee children, child care centres are also seeing staff calling in sick.
“We have had a lot of staff shortages,” said Davis. “We have had staff with bronchitis and just the flu itself. It’s hard to get staff on call just because there are shortages all in Winnipeg right now.”
While most daycares have been able to balance the staff-to-child ratio amid the influx of sick calls, it can cause major problems when they’re short.
This is resulting in facilities having to make some dire decisions right now in terms of reducing their hours of operation,” said Kehl.
“A few facilities have actually had to close their door for a couple of days until their staff is well enough to come back and resume operations.”
An unwanted yet very real option places like Earl Grey Children’s Centre are facing.
“It might mean closing early. It might mean asking parents to pick them up. It might mean shutting down for the day or shutting down programs,” said Raible.
Raible said it can be a big but necessary strain on parents for their kids to stay home sick.