Sudden closure of all PCF Sparkletots centres due to COVID-19 cluster in Fengshan branch, catches parents by surprise

Sudden closure of all PCF Sparkletots centres due to COVID-19 cluster in Fengshan branch, catches parents by surprise

It was reported in the media yesterday (26 Mar) that children and some of their parents at a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots centre in Fengshan have been served with quarantine orders.

Furthermore, all PCF Sparkletots centres were closed for four days starting yesterday. According to its website, it said that PCF Sparkletots is Singapore’s largest preschool operator, operating over 360 preschools island-wide with an enrollment of over 40,000 children.

The Fengshan branch had already been shut from 24 March to 7 April after a nursery 2 teacher from the preschool had been tested positive for the deadly coronavirus on 23 March and a few other staff were later found to be symptomatic.

“As she was last present in the centre on March 18 and was well at the time, ECDA and MOH (Ministry of Health) decided that there was no need to close the centre, but instead allowed the centre to close for a day for thorough cleaning and disinfection,” said an ECDA spokesman.

However, after more staff had reported to be not feeling well, the closure was extended. On Wednesday, 13 more staff at the centre, including non-teaching staff as well as the centre’s principal, were tested positive with the virus.

In a letter sent to parents, PCF said preliminary investigations revealed that some staff had gone to work despite feeling unwell.

“We are sorry for what has happened. It is regrettable that measures put in place to safeguard the well-being of children and staff were not strictly followed in that (Fengshan) centre. We will do a comprehensive review of what happened in this case and take appropriate actions,” said the letter.

PCF also said that an internal committee of inquiry will be formed to investigate the matter and disciplinary action against employees would be taken where warranted.

“We will also review our standard operating procedures to identify any gaps and tighten processes to ensure full compliance,” said PCF.

Parents informed of closure at the 11th hour

Due to the closure, large number of parents whose kids enrolled in PCF Sparkletots had to scramble to make alternative care arrangements for their kids resulting in great inconvenience.

The closure of centres came after some 20 COVID-19 cases were found to be linked to the PCF Sparkletots centre in Fengshan. Another 30 from other PCF centres have also been placed under quarantine as they had attended a training course with Fengshan centre’s principal, who was infected.

Understandably, some parents were not happy about being informed at the 11th hour with regard to the sudden closure of all PCF centres.

A 33-year-old mother said, “The school closure is troublesome and it was done very late – a lot of parents were scrambling.”

Ms Edwina Cheang, 25, said she got a call at 11pm on Wed (25 Mar), and had to apply for urgent leave for the next 2 days to take care of her daughter.

Sery Shida, 27, who has two sons in Yishun PCF centre and one son in primary school said, “Honestly, it’s not easy to handle all of them. When I take my eldest son to school in the morning and pick him up in the afternoon, I have to take along the two younger ones.”

PCF management council chairman is Lawrence Wong

Meanwhile, it was reported that the PCF management council chairman is Minister Lawrence Wong. He was said to have helped oversee the restructuring of PCF’s pre-school services.

A check on its website also shows Wong is still the council chairman presently. In addition, he is also the co-chair of Singapore’s COVID-19 multi-ministry task force.

Wong so far, as council chairman of PCF, didn’t appear to say anything with regard to what has happened in PCF Sparkletots.

Earlier on 13 March, Wong responded to questions in regards to school closures by saying that the government will not rule out school closures, however, they were still unclear about the effectiveness of school closure in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. They are still identifying the effectiveness of such measures before making any decisions, he said.

“We will not rule out (school closure) but we need to clarify… the effectiveness of school closures and how this would potentially break or slow down the transmission chain before putting in place a measure like that,” said Mr Wong.

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