New operator to take over childcare centre in Elmira

A not-for-profit organization will be offering daycare services at Riverside PS in Elmira come September. Jacob Hespeler Child Care Centres currently operates out of six other schools in the region.

The change comes in the wake of the Region of Waterloo’s decision last year to close all five of the daycare facilities it operates, including the Elmira Children’s Centre. That facility will close its doors on August 20, with the new operator expecting to be in place by September 7.

The selection of a new operator for the daycare centre was made by the Waterloo Region District School Board, while the fate of the four other closed centres rests with the region, said Barb Cardow, the region’s director of children’s services.

“The other four locations were in standalone buildings – they weren’t associated with the school board. So the case in Elmira is a bit unique, because we actually are there as the provider at that location, not that we owned the property,” she said of the transition at Riverside Public School.

“It’s really up to the school board to plan for and determine who the next operator would be, so that was totally in their hands. At our other four locations, we’re not in schools, so they’re different entities.”

Jacob Hespeler Child Care Centres  has been working with the school board since 1986, said executive director Colleen Lehnen.

“When approached about the possibility of opening a new centre here in Elmira, we came out and viewed the location and it really felt like a wonderful fit for our organization. The hub design of housing multiple entities that service children, families and the community at one location sets a welcome and inclusive environment for everyone,” she said.

The non-profit takes possession of the space on August 30, with some renovations planned ahead of the reopening, followed by the regulatory approvals needed for the operating license.

“We are optimistic that we can accomplish that in a few weeks time. We will be operating with 62 spaces in the child care for infant, toddler and preschool aged children, as well as operating the before and after school programs in the school for children in kindergarten through grade 6,” she said, noting the new Riverside Child Care Centre already has 61 families registered, with another 45 on a waiting list.

“Many of the families that have registered at our centre have indicated to us that they were, or are currently using the child care centre operated by the region, so we are glad that we were able to come in to this community and offer a new program here.  We know it is bitter sweet for families to lose that relationship with the existing operator and to be displaced for a short period of time.”

In voting last year to get out of the childcare business – a cost-saving measure to stem an expected $25-million shortfall in the 2021 budget expected to save $6.8 million – regional council also pledged to help make up the loss of some 200 daycare spaces. In Elmira, a new operator is coming onboard, but the others remain an unknown factor.

“There are a number of schools that are slated to create, or that have been approved to receive funding from the Ministry of Education to create new childcare spaces in new schools. So that is an area of expansion that is happening right across the region as well,” said Cardow.

While getting out of providing services directly, her department remains the system manager for all childcare centres in Waterloo Region.

As such, Cardow said she’s familiar with Cambridge-based Jacob Hespeler Child Care Centres, a non-profit organization that provides care services for children from infant to 12 years of age.

“We know the folks of Jacob Hespeler well – they operate at other locations across the region.”

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