My dear friends,
As you develop your plans for the fall I am receiving a number of questions regarding programming involving children, which include nursery care, Sunday school, youth groups, and Messy Church. We are working hard to keep up with the guidelines in the province as well as the bylaws from each municipality; we are constantly taking in questions and asking for clarifications from experts in order to help best guide you in keeping you and your people safe.
The most recent guidelines from the Alberta Government require children’s programming to not only follow the guidelines for places of worship, but also those of day camps. While I understand this may seem daunting, I assure you that these guidelines are very manageable with the proper preparation. I remind you that by the time we begin these programs many children will have already returned to school and will have begun to adjust to their new “socially distant” learning systems.
I will note a few key points from the attached documents that may help guide you as you read through them:
“At this time, overnight camps are prohibited.” (Guidance for Day Camps, pg. 1)
Please note that in both diocesan and provincial guidelines, no overnight church camps are permitted.
“Offering child minding for children under the age of 2 during faith-based programs or classes is not permitted at this time. These children should stay with their families during worship.” (Guidance for Places of Worship, pg. 8)
This point is very straightforward: there may not be any nursery programs at this time. Messy Church, however, remains a family worship service where children under the age of 2 remain with their parents for the entirety of the service.
“Games and other interactive activities should only occur if there are no shared items required.” (Guidance for day Camps, pg. 8)
There should be no shared items in any of the churches at this time. Each child will have to receive their own tools for crafts, games, etc., which must be sanitized thoroughly before and after each use.
“Ask parents and guardians to check the temperatures of their children daily before coming to the program.” (Guidance for Day Camps, pg. 3) “Instruct staff to conduct active symptom screening of each child every day with their parent or guardian as they drop off their children.” (Guidance for Day Camps, pg. 3)
Not unlike each time your parishioners come to a worship service, self-assessment tools must be used for each individual. Children must have their own forms which must be completed with the parents or guardians.
“[Staff and volunteers] are permitted to wear non-medical facemasks if preferred, even if a mask is not necessary for the work they are performing.” (Guidance for Day Camps, pg. 6)
Masks are now mandatory in the Diocese of Edmonton. Anyone involved in children’s programming must be wearing one while inside (or outside when social distancing cannot be maintained).
“[…] day camp operators should keep daily records of anyone entering or exiting the day camp who stays for 15 minutes or longer. Day camps must obtain consent (parent or guardian for children under 18) and notify individuals, parents, or guardians about the purpose and legal authority for the collection.” (Guidance for Day Camp, pg. 2)
This is for the purpose of contact tracing, so names and phone numbers are all that is required. Please ensure you have permission from the parent or guardian to take down personal information. The record should be kept for two weeks and then destroyed.
“Programs that utilize a space that has other user groups (e.g. programs in museums, community centres, etc.) must ensure the space is cleaned before and after using the space.” “A cleaning log must be posted and used to track cleaning.” (Guidance for Day Camps, pg. 5)
Many of our halls are used for other user groups, meetings, and other activities. I encourage all churches to implement a cleaning checklist and signoff to ensure a thorough clean is carried out before and after each group.
I encourage you to thoroughly read the attached documents and forward to me any and all questions that you have. I remind you that each program requires a risk mitigation plan to be sent to and approved by myself, and I ask you continue to allow for two weeks for me to review and return them to you.
Thank you so much for navigating all of these government requirements as we seek to keep our youngest members of our churches safe. I wish you a blessed year of children’s programming.
The Rt. Rev. Jane Alexander, Bishop of Edmonton