Child care centre closure sparks outrage
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | June 18, 2018
Parents are fuming after receiving a week’s notice that Minden’s only licensed child care centre will be closing.
“This is crazy,” said parent Brandon Jarvis on Facebook. “What are parents going to do?”
“No idea,” responded Heather Townsend. “I’m literally without child care for the summer now.”
Single mom Kim Switzer added she’d be forced to shut down her business if a solution isn’t found.
Those are just a few of the many comments on a post by local resident Cheryl Smith, who also shared a letter sent to parents on June 15 from the EarlyON Child and Family Centre’s board of directors. It told them the centre, located on Prentice Street, would close its doors on June 22 due to ongoing funding concerns as well as the “growing administrative burden” to run it.
In the fall of 2017, they engaged in talks with another licensed operator to transfer the service to them, but the two parties have been unable to reach an agreement. They terminated their agreement with the City of Kawartha Lakes, the service’s operator, “with the required notice.”
“We apologize for the short notice, we were hopeful there would be no disruption in service but at this time, the transition has not progressed and we will not be offering child care after June 22,” reads the letter, signed by board president Ryan O’Neill.
“We are continuing conversations in the hopes of a transition as soon as possible.”
Immediately after hearing the news, recently re-elected MPP Laurie Scott phoned the Ministry of Education. She learned they were speaking with the centre’s board.
“It’s just so unclear how this has happened,” Scott told The Highlander on June 18.
The short notice has left families in the area struggling, she said.
“A week’s notice is not acceptable. I don’t know why it came to that. We’ve got to find a resolution to this situation,” said Scott.
Minden resident Richard Bradley launched an online petition. It had more than 500 signatures on Monday. His grandchildren attended the centre in previous years, which is why he sprung into action.
“It’s totally unreasonable. This is our only licensed child care centre in town,” said Bradley, adding “this is like dropping a bomb in the centre of town.”
Two years ago, he spearheaded a petition to keep the town’s ServiceOntario centre open.
Lisa Tolentino, a mom of a nine-year old boy who has been going to the centre since he was 18 months old, was “pretty stunned” to read the letter.
“I was feeling sick for all the employees,” said Tolentino, whose son will soon finish his time in the after-school program. “They’re [the staff] like our second family. Some days he spends more time with them than he does with us.”
She added they are “awesome” and “bend over backwards to accommodate families.”
The Highlander learned that last December, staff were informed the centre would close at the end of March. The date was extended to June 22.
But in March, the organization’s executive director, Pippa Stephenson, said it was business as usual.
“We’re in the process of transitioning the child care to new management ... and as soon as we are able ... we’d like to make an announcement in the community,” said Stephenson at the time. “And, we’d certainly be happy to share with you at that time or even prior to the announcement because we’d like it to get out, but we’re just in the midst of the process right now, so we have nothing to share yet.”
Staff met with parents at the Minden office on Monday evening. A public meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the S.G. Nesbitt Community Centre.
The Highlander is awaiting answers to several questions sent to EarlyON’s head office on Monday.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.