DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard
SCUGOG: Scugog will have another childcare option this summer. Helping Hands Daycare Centre is adding a Port Perry location, at 15930 Old Simcoe Road, which is expected to open its doors in August. Helping Hands Daycare currently has locations in Courtice, Pickering, Ajax and Whitby, and the company’s Chief Executive Officer Ryan Eickmeier felt it made sense to bring the company to North Durham as well. “We obviously go where there’s need. We have a strong working relationship with the Region of Durham Children’s Services. They have a really strong program that helps identify where there is excess need, excess demand for child care versus the local supply. We usually start there with an idea of where we want to go,” Mr. Eickmeier explained to The Standard. “Port Perry was a natural place for us to look, and in fact we’ve been looking at it for several years now, trying to find the right location.” Construction on the new daycare centre is expected to get underway in the next month or so. Once building is complete, Port Perry’s Helping Hands Daycare is expected to have capacity for 84 children, which will “include space for 6 infants, 30 toddlers, 32 preschoolers, and 16 [kids in] kindergarten.” Mr. Eickmeier stated, in an email. In addition, the new daycare will include a 2,400 square-foot fenced-in playground. Mr. Eickmeier also talked about what makes their daycare unique from other service providers. “There are a number of great operators out there, and we like to view communities in a way that we’re not here to replace [other operators], we’re not here to supplant, we’re here to help support, to be a part of that overall childcare community. But what makes us unique is really the way that we build our centres. We prioritize natural light, we prioritize bright colours, kid friendly classrooms where the kids want to come each day,” he said. “What also separates us is the amount of outdoor space we do have, including playgrounds, slides, climbers, stuff like that.” Helping Hands Daycare has already heard a lot of support from the local community to bring this operation into Scugog. “Response has been very positive, and we’ve already started receiving registrations, within 24 hours of getting the word out. We’ll see what our limitations are, based on the government, for opening, in terms of [COVID-19], but we do expect to be able to fill that centre in the near term,” Mr. Eickmeier said. When they do open, the centre will likely be operating with new Ontario health related restrictions. “We’re waiting for guidance from the Ontario government. We do know some things right now through the emergency childcare that [are] currently in place. There will be screening at the door, there will be temperature checks,” Mr. Eickmeier explained. “Beyond that, it will be more frequent, more exhaustive, disinfection of all the materials, all the play surfaces.” Those working in the centre will also be facing a new challenge, to help transition kids back to daycare after an extended quarantine period. “That’s going to be the trickiest part of this. the health and safety, the disinfection of surfaces, in many ways its easier for us to do because we can control it. How we help navigate children returning to care, or going to childcare for the first time, in this new reality that we live in, it’s going to be something new for our educators. But they will absolutely find ways to be innovative,” Mr. Eickmeier said. “It’ll be challenging. We’re expecting some guidance, from the provincial government ministry of health, in the next days or weeks, and we’ll be able to apply that to not just the Port Perry centre, but all 8 of our other locations.” For more information, go online to this address: www.helpinghandsdaycare.ca.