PRE-school or childcare centres in Petaling Jaya will no longer be compelled to close their doors during the hazy season and leave working parents in a lurch.
Previously, babies and toddlers had nowhere to go every time the Education Ministry issued a directive to close daycare centres or pre-schools when the Air Pollutant Index (API) level reached hazardous levels.
Now, the Government is allowing the centres and parents to decide on the closure at their own discretion.
Centres have to inform the state’s Welfare Department if they decide to close and how long they will be closed for.
“We will no longer instruct them to close; now it is totally up to them,” said a Women, Family and Community Development Ministry corporate communications spokesman.
This official stand comes after parents expressed unhappiness over the sudden closure of pre-schools and childcare centres previously over the haze problem, forcing many parents to take emergency leave to look after their children.
“However, we do advise that all outdoor activities be cancelled and for children to stay indoors,” he said.
Although it is advisable to close when the API level reaches very unhealthy level, the ministry urges childcare centres to seek the agreement of parents before making any decision to close.
“Although we are in charge of regulating pre-schools and childcare centres under the Childcare Centre Act 1984 (Act 308), we will not enforce school closure due to haze,” said the spokesman.
In light of this clarification, StarMetro spoke to a few childcare centres and pre-schools.
“It is better this way because parents will not want us to close as they are working,” said Serena Wong, who oversees Taska Suria Sayang.
“We take precautions by closing all our windows and doors, and keep the children indoors,” she said.
Similarly, Tadika Jack & Jill cancelled all outdoor activities but remain open operationally.
Its human resource department spokesman M.Y. Wong said parents had been unhappy over sudden closures last year following Education Ministry’s directives.
“Currently there is more flexibility and parents can have a say as well if they want to keep their children at home or not.”
Meanwhile, Taska Pusat Perkembangan Minda Kanak-Kanak also gave the thumbs-up to the current stand.
Run by the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), the pre-school too cancelled all outdoor activities but have not closed at all this year despite the haze.
“We cannot just close at such short notice because there are many working parents and they depend on us to look after their children,” said MBPJ public relations officer Zainun Zakaria.
She said the statement from the ministry made their job easier and they would close the school if parents requested for it.