On Providing Day Cares in our Schools
It has become evident that if we are to provide 21st century learning, our schools must provide day care services to our families. Though our mature neighbourhood schools have the space for day cares and after school care services, our new schools in the suburbs do not. Though we have lobbied for it, the government of Alberta will not pay the capital costs to provide this service in our new schools. Our board therefore voted recently to use money from the sale of our older schools and properties to pay for portables which would be used for day cares in 4 new schools in our new suburbs. The cost of providing one wet (complete with bathrooms) and one dry unit per school would have been $900,000, bringing the total cost to $3.6 million. If we were to go ahead and supply portables for day cares, we would retrieve the full cost of them after 26 years through leases to our day care providers. So we would eventually recover the cost of them but after many, many years. I voted against this motion because I believed it was outside our mandate and because I felt that this money was needed for our own purposes now — especially to repair our current inventory of schools–new and old. It has happened that even new/newer schools have had need of emergency repairs due to floods, water seepage, mold etc. Because we have been receiving fewer and fewer dollars for maintenance, I voted to keep the money from the sale of our properties for these types of emergencies. I understand that being able to make one trip to one location to drop off the young ones at day care and the older ones to school on the way to work is a big plus for busy families. I do get this! But we are not a rich organization and so we are limited to looking after the students we are mandated to care for first.
After the motion passed, we sent a letter to the Minister of Education requesting that we be able to use our funds for the purpose of providing day cares, and the reply from the Minister was an unequivocal “no” due to the fact that providing this service was outside of our mandate.
We immediately established an ad hoc committee to advocate for providing a variety of wrap around services within our schools. I am a member of this committee and am committed to advocating to all levels of government for needed wrap around services and finding ways that we can work with private day care providers to bring their services to our schools in our new suburbs.
I want my constituents to know that though I voted against using our own funds for building day cares, I do see the value in having these services available at each of our schools. If we are truly focused on providing 21st century learning, we need to address the needs of the whole child and their families.