French day care in Saint John faces staffing crisis

The only Francophone early learning centre in the Saint John region has reached a critical level of staffing shortages since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Complicated conditions have already led to resignations and forced the facility to cancel registering children for the time being.

"It's essential for us, that my child can go to a school where she understands the language," said parent Dominique Daigle.

With word her daughter's Francophone daycare has reached "critical" levels of staffing shortages since the start of the pandemic, Daigle is worried.

"Getting a letter saying it's a possibility they may have to close classes and that we may not have any daycare services, is very worrying for me, and many parents in fact," Daiglesaid.

The Association Regionale de la Communauté Francophone (ARCF) says it's considering sending children home because of the staffing issue.

The situation is not only complicated by the COVID-19 crisis, but also by the flu season, and the need to self-isolate if someone has symptoms.

"We don't have any flexibility like we used to before, because before we could do some replacements, shift people around," said ARCF executive director Michel Cote. "But now we can't shift people around because they have to stay in their bubble."

At least 10 more educators are needed. Currently, there are around 45 for about 280 children and the administration has been forced to cancel registering children until the issue is resolved.

Recruitment has been difficult, even before  COVID, because, they say, salaries for educators are not competitive.

"It's easy for some of the staff to go work with the public service, schools, hospitals where they're looking for bilingual people and pretty much double their salary," Cote said.

Daigle says "it is very worrying, especially in a pandemic where most parents are already stressed because of jobs, changes in jobs, this is just adding even more stress."