Minden daycare rescued at last minute
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | June 28, 2018
At the end of the day on June 21, parents got the news they were hoping and praying for: child care service will still be available at 16 Prentice St. in Minden.
After a week of stress and uncertainty, the City of Kawartha Lakes (CKL) confirmed a deal had been reached between the Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) Haliburton Victoria Brock Inc. and Compass Early Learning and Care. This past Monday, the latter assumed the service at the same location. There was no interruption for the children enrolled at the centre, now known as Compass Early Learning and Care - Minden, and current fee subsidies will be honoured.
“We’re really happy we’ve got an agreement,” said Compass CEO Sheila Olan the next morning. Parents received a letter from the OEYC board June 15 informing them the centre would close on June 22. The OEYC HVB terminated their service agreement with the CKL. Ongoing funding concerns and the “growing administrative burden” were cited as the main factors.
At a public meeting last Wednesday evening, parents and staff of the centre were told an agreement was in the works. In attendance were OEYC executive director Pippa Stephenson and board chair Ryan O’Neill. While it was a positive development, parents and staff expressed their disgust with how the matter was handled.
“I was warned at 4:17 p.m. on a Friday when I can’t call anybody, I can’t advocate for anybody. I’m left wondering, all weekend, what is going on,” said a single mother of four. “There was a lack of communication to the daycare. There was a lack of communication to the parents.”
The centre’s supervisor, Kinga Baricz, said children were placed under a great deal of stress. “What really makes me sad, angry—I don’t even know my feelings—is that nobody thought how about how these children felt this week,” said an emotional Baricz. “Those children have been put through a lot. We were in a place where we could not be 100 per cent happy for them.”
Stephenson apologized to parents, but also said it’s been a trying time for her. “For eight months, it’s been so stressful my husband doesn’t even want to talk to me about what’s going on,” she said.
The organization was running a deficit, said Stephenson. They “searched diligently” for someone else to take over and had been in negotiations with Compass since the fall of 2017. As for why they didn’t reveal a closure was possible earlier on, she said, “We were trying to put everyone ahead of us and keep it quiet, so nobody was panicking.”
O’Neill said the board determined last fall that the operation was no longer sustainable. “Did we wish to do this? No,” he said. Compass is a non-profit, charitable corporation based in Peterborough. It has 33 licensed programs serving more than 1,500 children, according to Olan. They have hired the centre’s eight staff and given them pay raises, however they have lost seniority since they’re new hires.
In the fall, they will go from 26 licensed spaces to 49. Other programming at Archie Stouffer Elementary School is licensed for 30 kids. Just like the OEYC, they receive funding from the Ministry of Education, which is distributed by the CKL. Child care rates and hours of operation will remain the same.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.