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No deal for daycare at Athol Town Hall

A wait list of 400 Prince Edward County families needing daycare will see no relief as an agreement was not reached between the municipality and The HUB Child & Family Centre to renovate and create 24 much-needed pre-school spots at the Athol Town Hall in Cherry Valley. The idea had also been considered a pilot for daytime use of halls in other wards, further alleviating the day care wait list.

“After a very long process, and thoughtful reflection over the past couple weeks, it is with a heavy heart that The HUB Child & Family Centre will not be proceeding with Athol Town Hall,” said Stacey Stanford, HUB Executive Director, in a letter to municipal staff.

“Athol was perfect for everything we needed to facilitate preschool-based licensed child care with the location and being able to open sooner than later. We had the funding to upgrade the septic and do some required renovations. The County was wonderful to help us with the requirements for licensing.”

Athol Town Hall in Cherry Valley. – The County photo

Preliminary modifications to the Athol Town Hall would also have included a renovation to the washroom facilities, an industrial use dishwasher for the kitchen, and a fenced in playground area. All of these upgrades would have been available for use by the community on evenings and weekends.

Prince Edward Lennox & Addington Social Services has the responsibility to deliver provincial childcare funding, and in its Directed Growth Strategy it is noted there are currently 83 unallocated Canada Wide Early Learning Childcare spaces for Prince Edward County – 53 of those spaces for Community 7 (Picton, Athol and Marysburgh). The Athol area is at the top of the priority list.

While council showed support in May for a five-year lease agreement, there were concerns about loss of use expressed by the hall’s main current users – members of the Women’s Institute and Athol Recreation. It was suggested the few daytime events would have to be moved to an evening, or weekend – or, an inter-generational effort could have been made for some occasions such as the annual strawberry social, or ham supper.

Councillors had stated a bylaw to enter into a lease agreement should be brought forward with a detailed version of the agreement following more consultation with the HUB, WI and Athol Rec outlining shared use of the facility. A lease, they said, would  be reviewed after one year.

In her letter, Stanford stated “opening up a licensed child care centre is not an easy task, and it takes support from all.

“I anticipated bumps along the way, and I am disappointed for the families that need child care so desperately. We have great support in the community and people that advocate for child care as it is a high demand, essential service for Prince Edward County. I am thankful for the families that wrote into the council in favour of child care, for the support of PEC Needs Child Care, and the families in the Athol ward for their continued support.

She note The HUB is going to focus on its employees, and making sure all of its programs are staffed to the fullest.

“I will keep looking hard and advocating for this community to build or rent the perfect child care spaces for families,” said Stanford. “I have learned a lot from this experience, and I will not stop until we find the perfect, welcoming spaces to open quality licensed child care. I look forward to working with the County on our next adventure.”

At the committee of the whole meeting in May, Stanford had explained “The HUB has so much to offer from child care spaces to resources for community families that may be struggling, we have the resources, services and supports that are needed.”

The HUB Child & Family Centre currently has five main program areas serving infants to children 12 years of age, and their families:

Licensed Child Care: The Hub is the largest provider of licensed child care in the County at two established Centres, one in Picton (serving 85 families) and one centre located at Massassaga-Rednersville Public School (serving 37 families). In addition, it offers a half day preschool program at PECI, four days a week for 32 families.

Before & Afterschool Programs: Before and after school care at five schools – PECI, Sophiasburgh, Kente, CML and St. Gregorys. (Also Summer Camp at two of those sites currently.)

Home Child Care Program: The Home Child Care Program provides support and guidance to home-based caregivers throughout Prince Edward County. The program offers parents supervised; home-based, licensed child care options. The Home Child Care Program currently offers child care to 7 homes throughout the county.

EarlyON Programs: EarlyON provides the basis for all of the early learning program supporting parents and children birth to six years. It engages families and children through regular playgroups, specialized parent and child groups, parent education, prenatal education and support, supporting access to Good Baby Box through Community Development Council (CDC), provision of enhanced support for special needs children.

Special Projects and Programming: Involvement in the community continues with the Homelessness Prevention and Food Security programs providing families with a community pantry, stocked each month and a monthly vegetable and fruit bags program from the CDC.

Click here to visit The HUB Child and Family Centre website for more information.

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  1. Michelle says:

    It’s truly unfortunate that both sides of this issue lose. No expanded Child Care for the County. And an underused Athol Hall loses upgrades to Accessibility, Septic system upgrades as well as new washrooms. This should not have ended this way. Council should have found a way to bring both parties together and make this work. Dissapointed.

  2. Teena says:

    There are two sides to all of this, don’t forget. I, for one, would really like to hear both of them.

  3. Wendy says:

    Very disappointing to hear that groups that are not currently using the hall to its potential are holding up another group that will create much needed daycare spaces, great use for the space and upgrades that are available to all user groups and the community. It seemed to be a win-win for all involved.

  4. AK says:

    Such a disappointing outcome because a few people didn’t like the idea.

  5. JennyD says:

    So disappointed – perhaps county could have negotiated a win win for the current users and the new initiative for child care service delivery. Looks really bad for the County and the current users. Nobody wants to help. Seems like there’s little to no support for child care services, although the County facilitates just about anything involving tourists and attracting people to come here. Hope you this program finds a space and get something put together.

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