Daycare plans explained at public meeting

April 29, 2024, 8:16 am
Kevin Weedmark

Play Fair Daycare is planning for an additional 90 spots, which will require a second building. The Southeast Cornerstone School Division has offered to transfer a piece of land at the south end of the MacLeod School playground to the daycare. The daycare board wants to start work on site preparation for the second daycare building this fall.

Play Fair Daycare’s plans for a second location were explained at a public meeting Tuesday evening, and most people who spoke at the meeting expressed strong support for the daycare. The daycare currently has 71 spots, and has been approved for an additional 90 spots for a total of 161. The 90 new spots will have to be located in a second building, and the daycare board is planning an 8,000 square foot building. The new building will be constructed on land donated by the Southeast Cornerstone School Division at the south end of the MacLeod School playground.

“We need to get together to find some solutions and find some resolutions for everyone to get the proper information and to learn exactly where we’re at and where we’re going to be,” Economic Development Committee chair Murray Gray said in opening the meeting.

“Healthcare in our community is suffering because we don’t have enough daycare spots, and that affects each and every one of us. The nurses and the people who are employed at the hospital don’t have any spots for their kids so they can’t go back to work and it is a problem throughout this entire province. We have the ability to work together to make ninety spots and hopefully alleviate this.

“The daycare now employs 20 people and adds about $1 million to our economy every year so we’re essentially doubling that. It will add more employees and 90 more spaces so people can go back to work. It’s hard to measure that for our economy but those spaces are very, very, very valuable.”

“I absolutely agree with you, Murray,” said school superintendent Jeff St. Onge.

“The school division understands the importance of this daycare to this community and we’re happy to be in the position where we can assist with the new daycare.

“When we were initially asked about it, we looked at what we had and decided we could provide the land for the daycare.

“All land is important for us, but that land at the south end of the playground is underutilized and a little harder to supervise so we thought absolutely that will work, we’ll offer it up for a dollar and they got back saying, ‘Oh it’s not quite big enough,’ so we offered them a larger piece and we agreed. We’re just happy to help out.

“We looked at it from our lens and our lens is about what’s good for kids. What’s good for the Play Fair Daycare is good for the kids in our community. We don’t start caring about the kids when they turn five and they show up at our door. We care about all of the kids.

“So it was a no brainer to offer that land for a dollar. When we’re looking at it, we’re looking at how valuable it is to us and that was our least valuable land, then the questions came up, ‘Well what if we build it here? What if we build it there?’ We took them to every one of those sites and said, ‘If we put it on the north end we lose visibility and the track.’ So in the future, if we need a portable, then suddenly it has implications if we gave away a piece of land that would affect our kids in the future.

“Understand, our lens is what is good for the kids, and sometimes when we’re looking at what is good for our kids, it includes ten years out. We can’t be giving away this because it makes sense today but suddenly in the future the ministry says we have a couple of portables but we have nowhere to put them, because we gave up the land. So we’re looking out there in the future and the land that we offered up on the south side makes the most sense for us, for the future of our kids, and that’s the way we look at it. Please be assured that we’ve looked at every site that was asked for and after looking at them very closely, we determined that it’s best on the south side.”

Director of Education Keith Keating said the school division is happy to help with the daycare by providing the land.

“We have heard a lot of information around some of the ways Moosomin is booming with economic development. We’ve heard about new businesses, we’ve heard about the addition of the childcare spaces, the addition of some other health care resources and the airport, all of those economic development ideas that we analyze. We’re happy to do our part to help this along.”

Positive impact

Jill Jones of the Playfair Daycare Board of Directors told the crowd the new daycare building will have a positive impact on the community.

“Imagine considering the move to a new community where you don’t have access to safe and reliable daycare, would you move to that community?” she asked.

“Most of you said no, so let’s talk about getting Moosomin a new daycare. The first point that I’m going to make is that it’s going to impact our community positively. Play Fair Daycare employs 17 full time and seven part time employees, putting $880,000 of payroll income into the pockets of our local workers. Annually we’ve also spent $160,000 that is invested back into the community.

“Quality daycare can also have a positive impact on cognitive, social and emotional development, and all of this will lead to building a solid foundation for every child to have a successful future.

“The second point that I would like to make is that we’d like to minimize or eliminate the wait time that we currently have.

“Currently we have 101 children on our wait list and 37 of those children would show up tomorrow if we offered up a space.

“Do you want to know what that means to the community? Part of those numbers make up 27 acute care nurses that are currently operating with reduced hours or availability because they do not have access to child care.

“With the closure of some of the local home daycares in our community, our wait list seems to be growing every day. Some families are having to travel to surrounding communities to access child care because they can’t bring their children to us.

“At this time anybody new to the community will be put on a wait list. We do not have the capacity to take on a single new child.

The third point I’m going to make, is that it will increase property values. When you look at some of the current house listings, you’ll see that they’ve stated that they’re close to or across the street from daycares or educational facilities and these are positive selling points. Often you see that in the first sentence. So this will contribute to a vibrant family atmosphere in the neighborhood that will create a community and will enhance the appeal and viability of this area.

“So the population will also increase because there will be an increase of residents that will be able to move to our town now. Having open daycare spaces is going to allow the community to grow, which in turn is going to increase property values for everyone.

“The fourth and final point that I’m going to leave with you tonight is that the location of this project has been thoroughly reviewed. So I encourage everyone to look at our site plan.

“You will see that there is no need for shared parking and that we have a generous parking lot set up for safe drop off for parents and their children, and ample parking for our staff.

“This location is also safer for our school-aged children who walk to and from the school twice a day. This keeps them on the school grounds and off the street.

“We’d also like to acknowledge that the utility hookup may be more difficult but it’s not impossible. Once we have our topographical survey back, we’ll have a better understanding of what we need to accomplish to bring services to our property. Just like it is with any construction project, the cost of getting those services to our building is included in the cost of the project and thanks to the school division and their generous donation of almost an acre of land to us, we can offset the cost of putting in those services.

“There’s also a monetary element to everything, of course, and right now there’s some very advantageous provincial and federal funding available to us. We can get this daycare in service by the end of 2026 with some great access to some funding.

“Starting groundwork in the fall of this year is vital to that time line. So as you can see from these four points that I’ve given you, we will greatly benefit from this daycare and the sooner the better we can get it. So we are calling on Moosomin, help rally behind this additional daycare and spread the word about the positive impact that a quality daycare can have.”

‘An opportunity’

Councillor Murray Gray wrapped up the presentations.

“Over the last few weeks I’ve thought about this a lot,” he said. “I’m not involved with the daycare board. I’m a resident and I’m also a councillor and I’m involved in economic development but really, to me, it doesn’t matter where this daycare goes, but it needs to go forward in a timely manner. We have an opportunity here to build it and get a shovel into the ground to get this done. To start over at this point in time isn’t an option. It was six years ago that this whole conversation started and we don’t have another six years.

“It would set this community back 20 to 25 years by not putting a shovel in the ground and starting to dig there this fall. It’s very, very important.

“Our community over the last three or four years has had several victories or wins. We’re growing, we’ve got an airport that’s being built and they’ve announced a CT scanner. A lot of really positive things are happening in our community and our area, mostly due to collaboration. That collaboration is the town working together, boards working together, people all pushing in the same direction in order to get things to happen. This daycare is exactly what we need and we all need to be on the same side and we all need to do what it takes to open up these 90 daycare spots so that our community can continue to grow and be the community that I know it can be.”

There was a question at the meeting about utility hookups at the south end of the playground, which the planning committee said there are several options for, a question about other possible locations on the school grounds, which the school division said has been thoroughly investigated, and a question about privacy fence between the day care yard and neighboring houses, which the planning committee said they will investigate.