Barbara Undurraga is an Early Childhood Educator with UBC Child Care Services, which is the largest university-operated child care in North America, with over 600 children in care at 27 locations on the Vancouver campus.
Could you tell me a bit about your role with Child Care Services?
I am an Early Childhood Educator with CCS. I am also a BCGEU worker representative, participating as a shop steward and on the Bargaining Committee to support the collective agreement and protect employees’ rights. Additionally, I help improve the health and safety in our workplace as a Safety Worker Representative on our Local Safety Team and Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee.
Which of your department’s teams are currently working on-campus?
Our entire team of Early Childhood Educators are currently working on campus.
How has the Child Care team’s work changed since COVID-19?
Enrolment numbers have changed
Originally, at the beginning of COVID-19 in BC, enrolment decreased when we switched over to providing care for children of essential service workers (Tier 1). However, CCS is now providing care for Tiers 1 and 2, so enrolment has increased little by little since early-June. We can begin providing care to Tier 3 families once the Ministry of Health approves this step.
Cleaning protocols and training
We regularly clean high-touch surfaces, such as door handles, counters, table edges and undersides, chairs, faucets, light switches, children’s bathrooms, and toys. We use two types of cleaner: a soap/water solution and a disinfectant that works against COVID-19. Our training in WHMIS protocols has supported us to understand how to work with the cleaning chemicals.
New policies and procedures for pick-up/drop-off and daily programming
Educators must wash their hands with soap and water upon entering a child care centre. Parents must drop off and pick up children outside. We also provide hand sanitizer for parents and children to clean their hands.
Throughout the day, children wash their hands frequently, like when coming in from outside, going to the bathroom, before they eat, before going to nap, waking up from nap, etc. One Educator will assist a child or children with washing their hands with soap and water in the bathroom.
We are not able to provide any food or drinks to children, so parents must provide their children with all their food and water for the day. Children eat in small groups at separate tables at separate times. Additionally, children have a separate location, containers, or basket for their belongings.
How does it feel to be providing such important services to the community during this time?
While we have always provided quality childcare to the community, it feels good to be able to help essential workers from the start of this pandemic.
Is there anything in particular you and your staff have been doing to keep spirits up?
We joke, laugh, dance, check-in and support each other. Providing care consistently during the pandemic has also maintained team morale.
What else would you like us to know about your team?
With some staff away for a variety of reasons and having borrowed staff from other teams during this time, the experience has been challenging, but uplifting as well, through our support for each other. I truly value and appreciate the team I work with because we have been calm, kind, gentle, and patient.
During COVID-19, we have all been participating in Zoom meetings with Deb Thompson, Manager of Children’s Programs, on different topics about pedagogy narratives and discussions about a book we have all been reading called The Posthuman Child: Educational transformation through philosophy with picturebooks, by Karin Murris.
This book has us thinking deeper on how to slow down and be more aware, especially at this time. Our meetings with Deb are helping us rethink our daily routines with the children, with such atypical days, and we have all been discussing our explorations, collecting data and notes from each centre, gathering insights about each centre’s environment, and talking about our mental health. We are all learning from each other’s different experiences.