Kindergartens will open from Wednesday even if only one child turns up.

Bram Kukler, a senior manager for Auckland Kindergarten Association and general manager of the Northern Auckland Kindergarten Association, says five of the 14 northern kindergartens and several of Auckland’s 114 kindies have only one child confirmed to attend but will still open.

“We will open for one child,” he said.

Other surveys also indicate that most early childhood centres will open when the coronavirus alert level drops to level 3 this week, despite the Early Childhood Council recommending last Monday that centres should stay closed to stop the virus spreading.

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The council’s own survey of 400 centres has found that 55 per cent will open from Wednesday, 33 per cent won’t open and 12 per cent are unsure.

Fiona Hughes says 241 of BestStart’s 260 centres will open this week. Photo / Supplied

Fiona Hughes, deputy chief executive of the biggest childcare chain BestStart which does not belong to the council, said 241 of its 260 centres will open this week for 1830 children definitely returning and a further 240 children who may attend.

That’s around 10 per cent of the chain’s normal 18,500 children.

Another big chain, Evolve Education, said all of its 128 centres would open, although many for fewer than 20 children.

Kukler and other regional kindergarten associations said numbers are expected to start low in the kindergartens this week, but are expected to build during the level 3 period as more businesses start up again.

Waikato Kindergarten Association chief executive Maree Stewart said many parents were “still waiting to hear back from their employers”.

Kindergarten teachers such as Laingholm head teacher Janice Dawson, pictured in February with 4-year-old Ramiro Grant, will open their doors even if they have only one child. Photo / Jason Oxenham

“We have about 180 children returning, about 10 per cent, but we expect that to increase rapidly,” she said.

NZ Kindergartens chief executive Jill Bond said kindergartens across the country had decided to bring staff back to work on site this week so they are there whenever families need them.

“Many of our kindergartens are going to have staff at kindergartens even though we don’t think, or we know, there are no children returning, but our staff are going to work from kindergartens in case children arrive,” she said.

“We are picking that as people’s confidence increases, more children are likely to return, and we don’t want to have any barriers in the way of enabling that to happen.”

Kukler said 48 of Auckland’s 117 kindergartens were expecting no children to return this week but would still have teachers present in case any turn up.

Bram Kukler says teachers will open up every kindergarten in the morning just in case anyone turns up. Photo / Supplied

“Every morning we will have someone there in case,” he said.

“For those who don’t have any children, the team will pack up around 10am or something and go home, except for those who prefer to stay on site for distance learning.

“And then we’ve had a number of questions from parents who have children with additional needs. They are really struggling at home and we will make provision for those children as well.”

The Early Childhood Council survey also asked centre owners whether they felt “pressured into opening”.

Surprisingly, despite the council’s earlier protests, 57 per cent said no, they did not feel pressured. Another 39 per cent said yes and 4 per cent were unsure.

Almost half (48 per cent) said they had all the information about regulations and funding that they needed to open, and a further 36 per cent were “confident that it will come”. Only 16 per cent felt they did not have enough information to open.

• Level 3 education rules: covid19.govt.nz.

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