By Rob Vogt Local Press Writer
There would be a lot of benefits for the children at the Claresholm Child Care Society if they moved to a new multi-use community building adjacent to West Meadow Elementary School.
Right now the day care is the only licensed and accredited child-care centre in Claresholm, said Kim Gugala, who is the child care society’s executive director. The centre has a maximum of 47 children, with about 50 enrolled and a waiting list. Currently, the building is not physically accessible to everyone. People must climb stairs to enter the day care, which is not possible for people with walkers, wheelchairs or canes, as well as some grandparents who can’t make the stairs to visit their grandchildren.
The stairs are also crumbling, which does not make its appearance optimal. Another issue is the age of the building. The rooms were set up to be hospital rooms, not classrooms, so they do not all have washrooms or sinks in each room. In fact, there is one main bathroom, so at times a group of eight children will have to walk down the hall to the bathroom.
Two of five rooms have bathrooms and three of five have sinks for washing children’s hands. Every morning staff have to put portable sinks in every classroom and fill the water. It is not potable water, so children can wash with it but not drink it. The temperature in the building fluctuates. In the summer it gets as hot as 30 degrees Celsius, while in the winter it gets ice cold.
One classroom gets so hot in the summer because of all its windows, it can’t be used in the afternoon. All classrooms have small space heaters to provide some heat. In the morning, staff have to turn on multiple heaters so the linoleum is not ice cold for children. This past year it got so cold the day care had to close because it had no heat. That poses a problem for parents who then can’t go to work. It then took 24 hours to have enough heat to re-open the day care. Plugging in air conditioners in summer and heaters in winter is also a balancing act because plugging in too many things at once blows the breakers. So they have to rotate what they plug in, and never vacuum at the same time they use an air conditioner or space heater. There is only a limited amount of usable storage, and no extra storage in classrooms in case staff want to have extra supplies available.
This day care also provides all the food, which includes two snacks and lunch every day. With storage being limited, it is hard to buy supplies in bulk which would save money. Ventilation could also be improved, so it gets hot in the summer.
Gugala said it has become progressively harder to license and insure the facility, because they should be completely wheelchair accessible and have open spaces where all the children can be seen at once. “We really want people to come and see what we see every single day,” she said. “And what the kids play in. “We just really want people to come. “Take a look for yourself.”
Looking forward, if the day care moved into a new space, there would be many benefits.
“It means accessibility to all age groups,” Gugala said. That would mean the day care could do more intergenerational programs with the Porcupine Hills Lodge and seniors groups. Open spaces would be conducive to learning and play.
Gugala pointed out the environment is another teacher. Sinks and toilets in every classroom would be good, she continued, and there would be space to grow. Right now, the day care has a waiting list. Being able to expand means taking on more children from families who are coming to the community.
“We don’t need something new and fancy,” Gugala said. “We want something warm and friendly for our families.”
A new space would have square classrooms. “It’s not fancy and big, it’s the basics of what we need to run our program,” Gugala said.
With the plebiscite coming on Sept. 30 to vote on whether the town should borrow $2.8 million, some of which is earmarked for a day care and playschool, Gugala invites everyone to see the facilities for themselves.
The day care and playschool will be hosting open houses on Tuesday, Sept. 17 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to noon and everyone is invited to take a look for themselves. (Please see related story on page nine)