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Childcare centres to remain open, regional councillors decide

Parents in Elmira and across the region are breathing a sigh of relief after Waterloo Region council voted 14-1 against a consultant’s recommendation to close the five regional childcare centres.

The consultant had suggested eliminating the 250 childcare spots, some of which are filled at the Elmira Children’s Centre, in exchange for creating 200 subsidized spots.

Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz, who sits on regional council, voted with the majority to keep the childcare centres open.

“It’s not very often as a council you get to sit and listen to hours of delegations all extolling the virtues of a program. The other part was the whole premise of what to do with the money we would presumably save by closing the daycares. The recommendation suggested that that money could go into subsidized spots, well there is no waiting list for subsidized spots. There is a waiting list for regular spots. So we would be removing 250 childcare spots for which there is a waiting list and replacing them with spots that we don’t have and we don’t have a list for. It didn’t make any sense,” Shantz said.

She says keeping the centres was important because of the number of parents who spoke about the quality of childcare their children receive at the regional centres, especially for their special-needs children. Also, as the only daycare in Elmira, aside from home daycare, it’s an essential service for parents of young children.

“The quality of care is exemplary and there’s a lot of expression of support for the centre, for the staff, for the way it’s operated,” Shantz said.

In regards to what to do about the waiting list for daycare spots, she doesn’t think adding more regional daycares is the appropriate route. She hopes instead the region can set up some type of networking system for daycares to share best practices.

Marlene Jantzi will have two children attending the centre by December and says the fact the vote was nearly unanimous has assured her that regional council recognizes the value of quality childcare to a community.

“We are grateful not only that our children can continue receiving care from valued childcare workers, but also that in years to come, Woolwich  will continue to benefit from the exceptional service and ‘gold standard of care’ offered by Elmira Children’s Centre staff,” Jantzi said.

Another parent of children at the Elmira Children’s Centre, James Dick’s relieved to hear Elmira will continue to have a daycare. As a small rural community, he notes it would likely be difficult to attract a new centre to the area.

“The quality is excellent. Knowing the workers themselves, they care for our kids. They’re emotionally invested. They want to see them do well and they want to see them be socially active and get along with their friends,” Dick said.

He says his children look forward to going to daycare, getting involved with art projects, and learning their letters and numbers. They’ve made friends and he’s encouraged by seeing how engaged they are at the centre.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the new daycare centre, which is supposed to be up and running in fall 2016. Ultimately I think it was a wise decision on council’s part because they’re investing in many of these children who’ll stay in the region and become entrepreneurs and innovators,” Dick said.

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