BLYTH – A survey will be coming to mailboxes in North Huron soon to seek input on expanding the North Huron Childcare Services to Blyth.
Outgoing Manager of Children’s Services, Valerie Watson, presented her final report to council on Nov. 16, responding to the possible need for expanded childcare services in the town. She suggested a survey would be an excellent way to get more information from residents about the subject.
When they completed their 2020-2023 Strategic Planning, the report was requested by council to “explore the feasibility of expanding daycare services in Blyth.”
In the report, Watson said that before the COVID-19 closure of childcare programs in March, North Huron’s children programs were consistently full. The electronic waitlist (OneHSN) regularly had numbers in the 70-80 range of children looking for care.
The waitlist includes many infants, often put on the list well in advance of needing care, some as soon as they are born.
North Huron continues to have approximately 80 children on the waitlist, four of which live in the Blyth area, Watson told council.
She suggested the following factors to take into consideration: the number of children requiring care, a suitable location that satisfies the ministry’s licencing requirements, staffing, and funding opportunities.
Childcare services are currently available in the Walton, Wingham, Seaforth, Clinton, and Goderich areas.
When calculating break-even costs for staffing purposes, the minimum number of children to cover staffing costs would be approximately 16 children.
Staff is considering the Blyth Community Centre auditorium as a possible location, saying that it could be utilized as a childcare centre with significant renovations.
Childcare staff reviewed that space and offered the following information to council:
This space contains a large commercial kitchen area, including a mandatory commercial dishwasher.
There is ample floor space to divide up into suitable rooms as required by the Ministry of Education.
It has open space around the building that could be developed into the necessary outdoor fenced play space.
There are already defined rooms that could be renovated to provide the required staff break area, office, and storage areas.
The space being located on the second storey is not ideal. However, clients can access the elevator, and there are appropriate fire evacuation doors and steps.
It is also noted the space has a sound heating system and necessary plumbing.
Council approved the motion to send out the survey and will consider the results at a future council meeting after completing the study.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times