Samantha Stobart-O’Dea and Helen Clarke, directors at Sunflower Montessori Crèche; Credit: Samantha Stobart-O’Dea

In an interview with on Tuesday afternoon, Samantha Stobart-O'Dea, Commercial Director at Sunflower Montessori Crèche, shared some of the challenges facing Luxembourg’s leading Montessori crèche during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as what 2022 has in store for the childcare institution.

The team, led by Samantha Stobart-O’Dea and Helen Clarke, currently runs five Sunflower Montessori crèches and one dedicated “foyer de jour” (afterschool service) in the Grand Duchy, as well as another facility in Brussels, Belgium. There are a total of 390 places available at these crèches and an additional 56 places at the foyer de jour. A seventh crèche will open its doors in Esch-Belval in May 2022, bringing the total number of places to 550.

Whilst children come and go at different times of the year, Ms Stobart-O'Dea noted that September is typically the busiest time for the crèche. However, like many institutions over the past two years, the crèche has suffered the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Attendance at the typically full facilities has dropped, as parents switched to teleworking. The two crèches in Findel in particular have had more available places than usual.

Nevertheless, numbers are slowly on the rise with applications increasing in recent weeks. Shortly after announcing the opening of the new crèche in Esch-Belval on Tuesday, the team had already received several applications.

Regarding hygiene and safety, Ms Stobart-O'Dea explained that the team and staff had already been used to frequently washing their hands and using hand sanitiser before the pandemic. In line with the guidelines issued by Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, Children and Youth, they have increased these hygiene and safety practices over the past couple of years, making hand sanitisers available to visiting parents and being sure to regularly wipe down door handles. Staff are required to wear masks around children over the age of two.

Despite these challenges, Sunflower Montessori Crèche is “not worried” about the future. On the contrary, the team is “really looking forward to the new year”, noted Samantha Stobart-O’Dea. They are ready for when people return to work and are particularly excited about the new crèche opening this spring. Ms Stobart-O’Dea explained that the team designed the facility in Esch-Belval from scratch, as they did with all their crèches, thus catering it to the needs of children and staff, whilst following the guidelines of the Education Ministry.