GUYSBOROUGH – With blueprints for a modern and fully licensed facility in Guysborough now in hand, parents and educators are a big step closer to seeing the dream of high-quality childcare become reality as soon as next summer.
“The drawings are confirmed,” Katie Pellerin, president of Guysborough and Area Child Care Association (GACCA), told The Journal in an interview. “We’re now waiting for the cost estimate from the school board, but I am assuming [we’ll have that] in the next couple of weeks. We’re looking at a mid-summer opening at this point.”
The blueprints, completed earlier this month, mark the first major milestone in the joint project between GACCA and the school board – Strait Regional Centre for Education (SRCE) – since it received a $500,000 core funding grant from the provincial Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in July.
Pellerin said that, since the announcement, GACCA and SRCE have been collaborating closely on getting the centre’s physical design just right. “We’ve been working with them, the project manager, and with the engineering team they hired to mock up the space. We really picked it apart and tried to make it exactly what we want it to be from the get go.”
The centre will be located at the ground level of Guysborough’s Chedabucto Education Centre, equipped with a separate entrance in space large enough to accommodate 18 toddlers, four infants, and a staff of between six and 10 early childhood educators.
Its completion and subsequent licensing will trigger benefits to area parents through a $605-million funding agreement between the provincial and federal governments, which effectively reduces child care fees by 50 per cent next year and drops them to $10 a day, on average, by 2026.
Pellerin said several steps still remain and there are some open questions. “We’re kind of waiting to see the funding details and what that’s going to cover, but we know that it’s not going to cover everything. So, we’re just doing as much as we possibly can.”
GACCA has already raised approximately $3,000 through community events – a pancake breakfast, flea market, variety concerts and yard sale – to help defray costs and expenses not included in the core funding.
Staffing will also be a challenge, she said. “We’re going to start recruiting in the winter, probably in January and February. It’s not looking good right now with the pre-primaries [hiring] all the early childhood educators, but we do have a great recruitment committee on our board of directors.”
Ultimately, she said, the centre’s success will depend on the degree to which people engage with it and GACCA. “We’ve really been on a membership drive. That way, when we go to have our AGM we will have a good turnout of people who truly want to be involved.”
Pellerin – who is a postpartum and labour doula by profession – added that safe, affordable, local childcare has been the missing piece of a community development puzzle that already includes a quality school, hospital, library, performance centre, marina and modern recreation complex.
“I work with young families,” she said. “I have three kids and live here full time. I am certainly passionate about the subject. There’s a huge need for this… for families, communities and children, and especially women in rural Nova Scotia.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal