Growing Minds Still Feeling the Daycare Crunch

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In the past few years, Niverville’s only licensed daycare provider, Growing Minds Child Care (GMCC), has seen limited growth. This trend is not for lack of foresight or desire, but rather, they say, a reality imposed by lack of adequate funding from the provincial government. 

In spring, GMCC received notice from the landlords at their 166 Main Street location that they will be required to vacate the premises in the near future. This is one of two locations that GMCC occupies to provide space for before- and after-school care. It’s also an optimal location due to its proximity to the Niverville Elementary School.

In June, a letter was sent to parents with children enrolled in GMCC, advising them of the impending closure. Thankfully, GMCC has confirmed that they will be able to accommodate all of the School Age 2 children (166 Main Street) at the School Age 1 location at 25 Main Street. The consolidation of the two facilities is scheduled for December 2017.

What GMCC cannot guarantee at this time is whether provisions will be available for children moving from their preschool care to their before- and after-school care. These are the children currently enrolled with GMCC who are moving from Kindergarten to Grade One this fall. Although they are hopeful all of these children can be accommodated in the after-school program, fluctuations in enrollment over the summer months makes for too many unknowns until later in the summer.

“As a result of this [loss of space at 166 Main], the 15 School Age childcare spaces that were created in August 2016 will be closed,” says Jennifer Duff, Chairperson of the GMCC Board of Directors. “These 15 spaces have not yet been approved for provincial funding and the government recently advised that the spaces do not meet the criteria for priority approval of funding. Due to a combination of losing existing lease space and the lack of foreseeable provincial funding that is critical to our operations, we will not pursue finding additional lease space in the community.”

GMCC’s inability to access additional funding raises questions about the Progressive Conservative government’s pledge last year to increase childcare spaces.

“With more than 12,000 children waiting for a space, Manitoba families are facing a childcare crisis,” said Ian Wishart, Minister of Education and Training, in a press release in April 2016. “Families have told us clearly they want childcare close to home or close to school. Simply throwing money at this is clearly not working. We have a plan to ensure [that] safe, affordable childcare spaces are available for Manitoba families.”

Wishart added that more than three-quarters of Winnipeg families do not have access to childcare and that there are 550 fewer home-based childcare spaces in Manitoba today compared to 17 years ago. He said that the reduction in spaces has been due, in part, to the cumbersome regulatory regime which governs the development of childcare facilities in Manitoba—and the Progressive Conservative government was hoping to change that.

A part of the government’s new daycare mandate, according to Wishart’s 2016 statement, is to “work in partnership with school divisions to increase the number of childcare spaces in public schools.”

Along with the recent announcement of a new Niverville high school scheduled for the fall of 2019, the province is also behind the initiative to include an integrative daycare facility within this new school. The facility will provide 74 new daycare spaces, including 20 infant and 54 preschool spots.

In the future, all new Manitoba school projects are expected to be equipped with daycares. According to Wishart, the number and type of childcare spaces to be included will be determined through a needs analysis of the community and surrounding area where the new school will be located.

“Manitoba’s new government recognizes that school-based early learning centres are a great way to help children prepare for Kindergarten and further learning, while making the most of existing school infrastructure, such as gyms and playgrounds, year-round,” says Wishart in a recent email to The Citizen. “Manitoba Education and Training is mandated to include childcare facilities in all new school and major renovation projects.”

When asked whether Niverville’s new daycare spaces would guarantee funding for this facility when it is ready, Wishart says, “Manitoba Education and Training coordinates with the Department of Families to ensure childcare spaces constructed in schools are provided with operational and start-up grant funding at the completion of the project.”

According to Hanover School Division’s Helene Connelly, Executive Secretary to the Superintendent, the only role they will play in the new daycare is to facilitate in the rental of the space to a daycare provider that has yet to be determined.

GMCC’s response to assuming that location is one of guarded ambiguity.

“GMCC is always open to exploring opportunities to improve and expand childcare services within our community,” says Duff. “As a non-profit centre, we are critically dependent on provincial operating grants to operate a sustainable and efficient program. The lack of foreseeable funding for our centre remains our greatest challenge to expanding our childcare programs within the community and will be a key decision factor to any new initiative.”

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