Beaches Co-operative Playschool to start offering programs this September after being closed for past year due to COVID-19 safety concerns

The Beaches Co-operative Playschool closed for the 2020-2021 school year due to COVID-19 concerns, but it will be open again this coming September.

By AMANDA GIBB

The Beaches Co-operative Playschool (BCP) will once again be opening its doors to the community in September after a long closure period.

The not-for-profit school is run by volunteer parents in the Beach, and offers a fun and informative learning environment for children. For 43 years, the BCP has operated out of the same classroom located at the Kingston Road United Church.

The BCP is a play-based preschool with family-led separation, where children from 18 months to five years old can “fully explore their innate curiosity in a safe and nurturing environment.”

Amid the economic turbulence as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beaches Playschool president Stephanie Alarie said the decision to remain closed for the 2020-2021 school year was in the best long-term interest of the school.

“Last August, what we were hearing from families is people were unsure of what the year was going to look like, and we are a part-time program…what we tend to see is families enrolling their children in BCP for enrichment opportunities,” she said.

Alarie said that parents were not necessarily relying on BCP for childcare, and as a result held off on enrolment due to the uncertainty of what the year would look like amid the pandemic and fear of further waves of outbreaks.

Karen McMillan, a member of the BCP executive committee and parent, said that the extended shutdown was unfortunate but made sense.

“It was a really difficult decision when they didn’t open BCP last year…but we figured it was the right decision for the school in the long term,” she said.

Now that the BCP is slated to open its doors in September, McMillan said that she’s excited that her daughter will have the opportunity to learn and grow at BCP again. She also said that she’s seen her excitement mirrored by other parents in the community.

“From the parents that I have spoken to, they’re excited about having the playschool back up and running again this year because it’s a great space and resource, and the kids all have such a great time,” she said.

Alarie said that because of the Kingston Road United Church’s generosity in not charging rent for a significant portion of the playschool’s closure, the BCP could afford to be closed.

“That really put us in a great position to get our footing for the start of our reopening come September,” she said.

Alarie also said that she’s delighted to announce that three of the BCP’s teachers will be returning for the reopening.

“BCP is a very special place with a warm community feel. The parents are very involved, the teaching staff is fantastic …We’re really excited about these teachers returning — their expertise in early childhood educations is fantastic,” she said.

She said that she’s looking forward to seeing familiar faces as well as new families that have heard about the playschool through the community.

In terms of the September reopening, parents can expect their children to enjoy a significant amount of time engaging in outdoor play.

“I think that we’re reviewing how we run our programs on a daily basis just to make sure we’re maximizing the amount of outdoor time,” said Alarie.

The BCP offers a large outdoor play area used only by the playschool, including a play structure, sandbox, and paved areas.

 McMillan said that taking advantage of the pleasant weather for as long as possible is an excellent idea and that she is confident in the BCP’s reopening.

“I’m not nervous at all. I feel like we will be prepared by September — our COVID protocols are sound, and we’re following all of the recommendations from the government and Toronto Public Health,” she said.

Alarie said that she is grateful that there’s more understanding and knowledge of COVID so that the school can operate as safely for children, parents, and staff.

“My feeling right now is that everything just feels right. It’s the right time for our reopening, we’re in a much better situation from a COVID perspective…everything is falling in place really nicely and we’ve been able to make some improvements in our registration process,” she said.

BCP offers three different programs for incoming children this September. Little Learners is a program meant for children as young as 18 months, and Big Achievers is a toddler class meant for preschool-age children from two and a half to five years old. Kindergarten Prep is for the older children that focuses on play-based learning, language, and math skills.

BCP’s registration for the 2021/2022 school year is open now for parents to reserve a spot for their child on a waitlist.

“It’s exciting that we’re in this position to reopen the school and that we have the interest from both our teaching staff and families in the community,” said Alarie.

Alarie said that parents are invited to the school’s morning welcome circle when COVID protocols allow it, and are welcome to volunteer or contribute to the school if they wish.

For more information on the Beaches Playschool, please visit https://www.beachescoopplayschool.ca/


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