HALIFAX -- Daycares and early childhood education centres will begin reopening in New Brunswick next week.

“We understand that childcare is crucial for parents returning to work as we begin to move into the phases of recovery from this pandemic,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy. “Opening up daycares and early childhood education centres is a community responsibility and opening up our economy depends on this.”

Cardy says reopening facilities are required to develop a COVID-19 operation plan, which includes keeping groups of children separated, enhanced cleaning inside each centre, and screening for everyone entering the facility, including parents, children and staff.

To help with the cost, New Brunswick will be distributing monthly grants of $20 per licensed space to support enhanced cleaning practices.

“There is a new screening protocol for all of our facilities, which includes a temperature check for all staff and everybody entering a facility, as well as a questionnaire around travel, or if they’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19,” said Nicole Gervais, New Brunswick’s executive director for early childhood development. 

Gervais says the province has heard from "about 50 per cent of facilities," with 80 per cent of those facilities saying they are ready to open next week.

Anyone who has travelled outside of New Brunswick will not be allowed to visit early learning and child-care facilities for 14 days.

Concerns from child-care centre operators -- and parents -- hasn't deterred Cardy.

"Every time we take a step, we risk tripping," Cardy said. "We have to be realistic about that, there's no shame in it. But that's no excuse for not continuing to walk ahead."

The province has given operators a long list of instructions, including play equipment and certain toys that are not allowed, and snacks should be brought from home.

Staff also have to keep children in smaller groups and a group of 15 needs to stay at least two metres from another group.

Because children will be exposed to one another, Cardy says the two-household bubble is more important than ever.

"Staff members' bubbles and each child's household bubbles must remain intact," he said. "We have to be vigilant about keeping our two-household bubbles intact. If folks break the bubble, they risk exposing their bubble to folks in the early childhood education centers, and potentially infecting others."

Staff, children and the parent that drops a child off, will get their temperature taken before entering the building.

The province is securing infrared thermometers for centres and will fund $20 per month for each child to help with cleaning costs.

"We're not requiring the wearing of masks in child care, except in situations where a child or educator gets sick while they are at the facility then they need to be isolated, and in the event they cannot have two metres distance," Gervais said. "Parents have one hour to pick up their child to make sure their child is attended to."

Fredericton's Sunny Days Children's Center is choosing not to reopen next week.

"We have decided to push it a little farther and open June 8 and then from that date have a staggered entry throughout that week, because we are a large centre, we have over 100 children total," said Jenny Gaines Rattray, the centre's owner. "We just felt it was best that we slowly reopen and enter into this new phase and new culture of daycare."

For now, she says she's working on an operational plan. One of the changes will see centres like hers set different operating hours, to give staff more time to clean in the morning and evening.

The province has also launched an online guide for parents to help them understand what to expect when their children returns to child care.