When Riverside Public School makes the move to its new location in the new Lunor subdivision in 2016, the Elmira Children’s Centre will be hitching a ride.The child care centre on Mockingbird Drive has outgrown the building it has been in since 1974. The relocation with the new elementary school will mean they can provide for another 20 children and offer infant care, something they have no room for at the current location.
Linda Bird, manager of Children’s Centres at the Region of Waterloo, said they’re in the preliminary stages of designing the building and they’re looking at what the centre’s vision will be.
What the old building will be used for has not been decided, she added.
“There have been some discussions with the township around using that property for expanded sports fields but I don’t know what the outcome will be,” she explained.
She’s not certain the building would be of any use to anybody in its current state. They’ve outgrown the building and need to expand to accommodate the community’s growth.
“Our current enrollment in that centre is approximately 40 to 45 children and we want to be able to expand to meet the needs of the community that we’re moving into,” Bird said.
She said they’ve been able to maintain the building and keep full enrollment, but there’s a future need for infant care and under the day nurseries act they don’t have enough room at the Mockingbird location. The new centre will be licensed for 64 children.
“There will be a need for that many,” Bird explained. “We do have a waiting list at the centre. Parents register on one list, and our wait list at Elmira indicates there’s a need for expansion. Programs expected that enrollment might drop with full-day kindergarten; we haven’t found that to be an issue in Elmira.”
Aside from more space, there are other benefits to co-locating with the school. They’ll be able to make use of facilities such as the library and gymnasium. Staff will also get to interact with each other and work together she said.
“The other part of this building that’s unique for the region is there will be a child and family centre,” Bird said. “It will be located on the second floor and it will serve families and children in the community for various needs. There will be multi-purpose rooms, there will be small meeting rooms.”
The services they’re considering having will be related to healthy babies, healthy children, pre-natal, post-natal, counseling, nutrition services, speech and language services, and special needs services. She said the idea of the child and family centre will be to bring all the various community agencies currently working in many locations under one roof.
Regional council approved their request to reconstruct the children’s centre in 2011. The school board put out a request for a community partner in 2014 and the region applied and was accepted. She said the partnership between the region and the school board seemed to fit with the ministry of education’s desire to modernize childcare in the province.
The region will be entering into a rental agreement with the school board, meaning the space they’ll operate out of will be leased from the school board.
“We’re waiting for site plan approval from the township and based on the result of that approval we may need to go back to our plan and the plan may need to be revised,” Bird said. “If it doesn’t need to be revised then I would assume it goes to tender.”
The Elmira Community Nursery School located in the same building as the children’s centre is expected to move along with the children’s centre to the new school.
The Waterloo Region District School Board launched a school boundary study for Elmira in May of 2012, which showed how overpopulated many of the town’s schools are. The report indicated Riverside would not be able to accommodate the influx of students from the Lunor and Birdland residential developments in the works. Thus, the $11-million project was born.
Other schools like John Mahood PS and Park Manor PS have seen changes as well. Preliminary plans for the new Riverside PS were shown at a public meeting in November, and the next public meeting is scheduled for later this month.
“I think it will be really beautiful when it’s finished,” Bird said. “It’s going to really meet that need in the community and where it’s going to be built there are going to be a lot of families in the neighbourhood.”