By Olivia Robinson
Published June 28 2018
Parents were flooded with relief that Peterborough-based company Compass Early Learning and Care had confirmed a new agreement to continue daycare service at the OEYC in Minden without service disruption late last week.
“The agreement will allow Compass to use the existing child care space on Prentice Street in Minden to provide licensed child care starting Monday June 25 2018. This will provide for continued care for all existing children and families enrolled at the Children’s Learning Centre” read the June 21 press release.
The agreement came after a heated meeting at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena and Community Centre on June 20. Rod Sutherland City of Kawartha Lakes director of human services; Ryan O’Neill OEYC board chair; and Pippa Stephenson OEYC executive director fielded questions from concerned and upset parents.
Mere hours before the meeting the City of Kawartha Lakes had released a statement saying that a tentative agreement would be reached to continue daycare services. At the meeting Sutherland announced that while the deal hadn’t been reached it was “close to 99 per cent.”
On June 15 the OEYC had sent a letter to parents and staff notifying them that daycare service would be terminated after June 22. Parents were in disbelief that there were no contingency solutions offered to them to find alternative childcare services.
“We didn’t want to do it but we felt we had to do it” said O’Neill of the decision to close the daycare.
In the fall of 2017 O’Neill said that it became apparent that the daycare was no longer financially sustainable under OEYC’s existing structure and thus the process had begun of finding another company to take over services. This process proved difficult for the OEYC. Since licensed daycare providers have to meet certain provincial requirements to provide service private providers were unviable options to assume service.
“We searched diligently for someone who would be willing to take it over” said Stephenson. “For the past eight months it has been so stressful.”
Stephenson also pointed to the provincial government’s revised regulations of the Child Care Early Years Act and the Education Act which were rolled out starting on July 1 2016. The administrative tasks associated with these revisions soon consumed the daycare and OEYC’s day-to-day operations.
“It was getting very stressful and we were having times where we were concerned about ongoing costs and we were running into deficits” she said. “We really felt that someone else could probably do a better job and give it more attention than we could.”
Despite the seemingly good news to come out of the June 20 meeting parents were still in disbelief at being left in the dark about the OEYC’s financial problems. Some called the decision to close the daycare “reckless” while one mother asked whether the notice of the daycare closure and the subsequent emotional turmoil were just part of the OEYC’s negotiation tactics.
“At the time and throughout the whole process up to and including the last week we had no indication or belief that there was going to be an issue and that we were going to end up in this point” said Sutherland.
The City of Kawartha Lakes was unable to assume responsibility to run the daycare itself citing legal issues.
OEYC staff were concerned about the futures of the children in their care and also about the stability of their jobs. At the meeting staff was relieved to find out Compass Early Learning and Care would be rehiring all employees. CEO Sheila Olan-MacLean confirmed that staff would be receiving pay increases but without seniority status.
As the meeting progressed shrieks of laughter spilled over from the room next-door where childcare had been arranged so parents could attend the meeting. While infants babbled and cooed in their parents’ laps it became apparent who would be affected most by the daycare’s closure.
“Nobody thought about how these children this week felt. Those children they have been through a lot because we were in a place that we could not be 100 per cent happy” said Kinga Baricz supervisor at the OEYC in Minden. “Who thought about their mental health and what they’re going through?”