Let me put it upfront - I really like our child care centre. It's spacious, with its own outdoor space that has a trampoline, a playground, a road safety area, a water play area. Each class has its own space and sometimes its own room. The two adjacent buildings are old but they are kept clean. Most importantly, the teachers are nice and the boys seem to enjoy their time there.
But perhaps it's a relatively new setup compared to the major chains out there so its administration gets a bit frustrating sometimes.
I just had time to look at the term 4 newsletters and saw the upcoming centre closure days, including public holidays. And I found that the original date of 25 November is missing. Instead, there are now two upcoming closure days on Monday, 31 October and Saturday, 24 December, listed as for Deepavali and school closure respectively.
Now, centres can close for seven days a year, including three half-days on the eve of any major festivals such as Christmas, New Year, LNY, Hari Raya and Deepavali etc. Lucky if the three half-days are on the eve of Christmas, New Year and LNY, since most office people work half day on those eves; not so lucky if they fall on other festivals... Anyway, my centre has closed for 4.5 this year already so 25 November should be the last closure day.
But (1) Deepavali is on Saturday, 29 October, which means no automatic public holiday on the following Monday, and (2) it is not clear that 24 December is replacing 25 November though I know that if Christmas or New Year falls on a Sunday, centres are supposed to operate normal on the preceding Saturday unless they utilise one of the 5.5 days of centre closure. So I have written an email to the principal to seek clarifications. If they really change 25 November to 24 December, Sito could cancel his leave on 25 November.
Just a couple of months back, they informed all parents that 30 December would be half-day closure, apparently coz 31 December, a typical half day, falls on a Saturday this year so they brought the half day to Friday *.* I confirmed with ECDA that centres cannot bring forward half-days! So after some messaging with the principal, she said that they would not close on 30 December anymore but there was no follow-up on the mass email to all parents or other mention on school closure days until the newsletter came around.
And in the middle of this year, I was busy the day of Parent-Teacher Conference. I knew the teachers from PG onwards would be tied up with the PTC so the plan was to go for the PTC in the morning then get them home for a nap so that I could get some work in. But somehow, ZK's teacher missed out on his reply slip and by the time I realised ZK didn't have a timing, it was too late to schedule the boys at a similar timing in the morning. We ended up with 1 plus pm, which meant that I had to go on my own while the boys napped, i.e. I must work in the morning. Sito happened to have reservist those two weeks and we didn't know whether he had to stay over the weekend yet.
So I needed to send the boys to school in the morning so that I could work. I informed the principal and was surprised at her reply that there would be no child care on PTC days. I had previously put one or both boys in on a past PTC day, before the current principal and the current management, and the infant carers helped out. But in any case, I sought good old ECDA's confirmation - yes, centres must continue to provide child care on PTC days unless they utilise one of the 5.5 days of centre closure.
And in the very early days when ZK was in infant care, I had events on many Saturdays. When I first told the centre, then under a different management and a different principal, they told me ok, just pick up before 1 pm. Various bells rang at the back of my head - I had done marriage and parenthood policy before, including child care, and I remembered vividly the stipulated child care centre timings. I didn't need to ask anyone - a simple search verified that centres have to open until 2 pm for half days.
I have highlighted the key points from my experience above, but the main lesson for parents is this - child care centres may not know everything. If in doubt, always check ECDA website; if the website is not clear, e.g. in the PTC case, ask ECDA directly.
The seven permitted days of closure already utilises most if not all of the six days of child care leave of one parent. If both parents can take turns to take leave, it's great! But some parents may find it more difficult to take leave than others so not both parents can take leave easily. And sometimes, one parent is not enough *.* Add HFMD to the equation - oh the scary HFMD! - and parents can get really tight on leave. I'm lucky to have many days of annual leave but most parents don't have this many.
Update 27 Sep 2016
The principal clarified with me this morning. I forgot to count the three half-days for eve of public holiday. So they're lumping the Christmas eve and New Year eve into one closure day on Christmas eve, and 25 November is still a closure day. But the Deepavali closure is a mistake.