Parents left reeling as Concordia University unexpectedly shuts down daycare

Parents, staff and faculty at Concordia University say they want to work with the university to relocate its subsidized daycare after an unexpected repossession notice. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Parents, staff and faculty at Concordia University say they want to work with the university to relocate its subsidized daycare after an unexpected repossession notice. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Pamela Carson had to wait three years to get her two kids into Concordia University's downtown subsidized daycare.

Now she's worried she'll have to start the process all over again after unexpectedly finding out the university won't be renewing the daycare's lease in July 2023.

"Nobody had any idea at all. There was nothing about this until we heard about this letter of repossession," Carson said. "It's very disappointing."

As an associate librarian at the university, Carson said she relied on the accessibility of the Centre de la petite enfance (CPE) — especially as enrolling kids in subsidized daycares is becoming increasingly difficult.

"This leaves me in quite a predicament. I love this daycare, the educators have been amazing, my kids love it. And now, am I going to have to stay home with my kids?" she said.

Carson said she and her colleagues, along with students who are also parents, are feeling stressed not knowing where their children will go in less than a year, as the Loyola campus CPE in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood is already full.

Graduate student and parent Sarah Moritz said closing the daycare goes against Concordia's proclaimed values of equity, diversity and inclusion. She said she feels students and faculty who are parents are being overlooked.

"I'm perplexed and shocked and surprised and disappointed," she said. "We need to have conversations before anything is decided."

Space needed for academic activities

The space used by the daycare, which is in the Grey Nuns building, is being leased by the university.

Concordia needs the space "for academic activities planned," said spokesperson Vannina Maestracci.

The university had been in touch with the director of the daycare "for a year concerning this project" and tried to negotiate other options with the CPE — including temporarily closing or moving elsewhere — but none were feasible, said Maestracci.

The worst-case scenario is the daycare closes with no other spot downtown. - Marta Kersten-Oertel, parent and board member

The repossession notice was issued Oct. 19.

"We regret that there are no other possibilities to keep the daycare within Concordia premises," she said.

But that won't stop parents and members of the daycare's board from trying to save it, as they say they want to work with the university to relocate the CPE in another downtown space.

"The worst-case scenario is the daycare closes with no other spot downtown. That would be 80 kids without daycare, looking for daycare [that's] hard to come by. [And also] educators looking for new jobs," said Concordia CPE board member and parent Marta Kersten-Oertel.

"The worst-case scenario is heart-wrenching."

Kersten-Oertel said she understands the faculty's need for extra space but the university must show they care about their staff and students.

"It's important to support the children of our community," she said.

Carson started an online petition to save the CPE, which now has about 800 signatures. She said she is trying to spread awareness and put pressure on the university to keep the daycare in its current location until Concordia finds an appropriate replacement.

"I took the daycare for granted as something we do to provide equity for faculty, staff, and students who are parents," she said. "It seems like such a fundamental thing for me."