As reported last week, the Weston Village Childcare has given layoff notices to its staff. They will lose their jobs—and the children will lose their spaces—in June, unless a new space can be found.
I’ve been speaking and emailing politicians, their staff, and Kim Cross, the director of the centre. As you might expect, it’s a complicated issue. The facts—and correct me if I’m wrong—are these:
- The childcare employs 9 full-time staff, 3–4 part time staff, and has space for 36 children.
- There are no other licensed group daycares in the village area.
- Westminster is trying to sell the church to another faith group, who, obviously, may or may not want the childcare to stay
There are many difficulties in finding a new space:
- There are regulations, some of which were written after the current space was found. Windows need to be so wide, and there need to be so many fire exits. There has to be an outdoor play space, and so on.
- Not all spaces will be suitable. Almost all daycares have separate rooms for different ages, for instance, and 36 kids require a lot of toilets.
- And it needs to be affordable. Daycares run on a shoestring.
- Any new space would, ideally, be within walking distance of the daycare. Buses are, at the very least, a pain.
- Weston Memorial is full to the gills.
- The before-and-after program at Weston Memorial has an impossibly long waiting list, and is only for children old enough to be in school.
These difficulties rule out a number of places:
- The new community centre is too far away, and not yet built.
- The postal station is too old
- Most (maybe all) of the other churches in town are not up to code.
Politicians (and their representatives) have called and emailed me to assure me that they’re working on the problem. It’s a big one: the presbytery¹, the daycare board, the city regulators, the management, the school(s), and politicians must work together and be lucky.
I remain hopeful. We cannot go from hope to despair without passing through struggle. With enough people and pressure, things can be made to happen:
- An exemption might be made to the codes until a new place is built or found
- Perhaps the presbytery can find some way to give the daycare an extension.
- The new owners can be shown the importance of the daycare to our community
- Benefactors might be found who will buy the church and use it for a community, sports and arts centre—and daycare.²
¹ You learn something every day.
² How can we make this happen? Seriously. That’s what I want.