New child­care spa­ces open­ing up?

City of Strat­ford and lo­cal school boards ap­ply­ing for ad­di­tional child­care spa­ces


There could be 123 new child­care spa­ces for preschoolaged chil­dren com­ing to Perth County.

The City of Strat­ford and lo­cal school boards are ap­ply­ing for pro­vin­cial fund­ing to cre­ate ad­di­tional spots for chil­dren un­der the age of five at sev­eral new sites con­nected to area schools. If ap­proved, it would help ad­dress the lo­cal de­mand – there’s a wait list – for child­care for in­fant, tod­dler and preschool chil­dren.

It’s a two-project process, with the first pro­posal due this past Fri­day. The sec­ond is less than a month away – Sept. 8.

“The time­line was ex­tremely, ex­tremely tight,” said Ca­role Des­meules, the city’s di­rec­tor of so­cial ser­vices.

But she added se­nior staff from both the pub­lic and Catholic school boards have been great part­ners through­out the process.

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion is ex­pected to have an an­swer by early 2018. The first lo­cal pro­posal in­cluded new child­care cen­tres on five sites in ad­di­tion to seven fam­ily and child pro­gram rooms. “The province will look fever­ishly at all these re­quests and come back,” said city man­ager of child­care Barb Hob­son. “We’re re­ally hope­ful.”

Perth County has never re­ceived fund­ing for these types of projects, she added.

“So this is a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity,” she said.

This isn’t an after­school pro­gram.” Ca­role Des­meules

If ap­proved, the tight time­lines con­tinue. The cen­tres must be opened and op­er­a­tional by the 2018-19 school year.

As for se­lect­ing the sites, data and in­di­ca­tors such as wait lists, oc­cu­pancy rates, and in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal space were used.

“This has not been done lightly. We have done ex­ten­sive needs as­sess­ments and sur­veys on the child­care and the need for child­care,” Des­meules said. “Based on all the data, we were able to make an in­formed de­ci­sion on where the needs are.”

Even though some schools ap­pear to have suf­fi­cient space for a child­care ad­di­tion, the ad­ja­cent land doesn’t per­mit build­ing. “It’s de­ceiv­ing,” Hob­son said. Des­meules added the po­ten­tial fa­cil­i­ties are strictly for in­fant and preschool-aged chil­dren.

“This isn’t an af­ter-school pro­gram,” she said.

The fund­ing in­cludes cap­i­tal and op­er­a­tional costs, and equip­ment pur­chases. The province has promised mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will not have to deal with any ad­di­tional fi­nan­cial bur­den.

Cap­i­tal pri­or­i­ties project fund­ing, the sec­ond of the two-part process, is tacked on to an an­nual re­port school boards sub­mit to the province re­gard­ing pupil ac­com­mo­da­tion, con­sol­i­da­tion and re­pair.

Coun. Kathy Vas­si­lakos pointed out dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s so­cial ser­vices sub­com­mit­tee meet­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion is not meant to res­cue schools from the ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view.

“I can fore­see the po­ten­tial for some con­flict where schools would have lots of space, but they also don’t have the need for child­care and maybe ask­ing, ‘Why haven’t you put it here?’” she said.

But Hob­son said if there are not enough stu­dents, there’s no need for child­care.

“We’re not sav­ing a school, it’s about where is it ap­pro­pri­ate for that child­care space,” she said. tbridge@post­

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