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. email@example.com