This week’s news – that the County has purchased the Haliburton Wee Care daycare for $770,000 – brings the local daycare story full circle.
The purchase comes about a year after Minden, and the County, got a real scare in June 2018 when The Children’s Learning Centre gave parents just one week’s notice that they were shutting their doors.
Some 52 families received a letter saying the only licensed daycare in the town was closing. They cited ongoing concerns over funding, coupled with a growing administrative burden.
It was one of the hardest weeks for not only those families, but municipal staff and councillors, who scrambled to find a solution.
Peterborough-based company, Compass Early Learning and Care, stepped in with a new agreement to continue daycare at the Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) in Minden without service disruption. The deal allowed them to use the existing child care space on Prentice Street effective the very day the former centre was slated to close.
In August of this past year, there was another development on the daycare front. The OEYC board transferred ownership of the daycare facility to the County of Haliburton for $2.
At the time, Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said the municipal control should prevent a similar situation from happening again.
It gave parents some sense of security after going through that tumultuous week of scrambling to find alternative day care, when there was really none to be found.
While the purchase did not change the day-to-day operations of the facility, since Compass Early Learning and Care manages the daycare under the oversight of the City of Kawartha Lakes, the asset itself came into possession locally. It can be argued that it guarantees in perpetuity that it can’t go away.
Since then, the facility has gotten 23 new childcare spaces, and up to $750,000 in capital funding from the province.
Now, the County is doing the same thing for Dysart et al. In buying the only licensed daycare there, the hope is to protect the future of that facility as well.
County Council agreed Nov. 27 to have bylaws presented for the purchase of the County Road 21 property in Dysart et al. The municipality is buying it from the Hodgson family, who started and managed the non-profit Wee Care but want to retire. The daycare currently leases the property from the Hodgsons and will continue to under County ownership.
“This ensures that both day cares in the County remain in public ownership and stable ownership,” CAO Mike Rutter said.
Again, it won’t change the day-to-day operations. However, it is an indication of greater municipal support and involvement, indeed bringing some assurance to Haliburton families.
The daycare’s managers are hoping the municipality can help secure provincial funding so the facility can expand and take on more children.
Parents across the county can now breathe a sigh of relief, and the moves demonstrate forward-thinking on behalf of the County.
Having secure day care further sends a message that Haliburton County is a good place to work, live and play for potential newcomers, including the medical professionals we so desperately need.