March 26, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 93  

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Student parents concerned over new day care’s priorities

By Allison Buchan-Terrell
Gazette Staff

Western Day Care is moving across the street and ownership is being transferred to the YMCA-YWCA, leaving some parents concerned.

Four years ago, the university decided the land on which the daycare currently sits — next to Essex Hall — was needed to build another residence, and Western committed to building a larger daycare facility across Western Rd.

The project is worth $2.7 million and the university sent out a request for proposals to companies who wanted to run the day care; administration received two proposals, one from the YMCA and one from WDC. The university’s evaluation committee chose the YMCA.

Malcolm Ruddock, director of communications at Western, said there were five people on the evaluation committee: associate VP-housing and ancillary services Susan Grindrod, a representative from the purchasing department, a University of Western Ontario Faculty Association member, a director of the university laboratory preschool and a director of the University of Guelph’s child care centre, adding the criteria for the committee included financing, programming, staffing and quality.

Alan Weedon, Western’s vice-provost policy planning and faculty, said the new day care includes 50 new spaces reserved for faculty, which is part of the collective faculty agreement.
Meg Borthwick, a member of the Board of Governors at WDC and a parent, said Western daycare was started 32 years ago by a graduate student to accommodate student needs. She explained that the day care was a separate incorporation, but was always affiliated with the university and operating in the black.

One of the major concerns Borthwick noted was the change in priority from students to faculty when filling the new spots. “At the meeting [Wednesday] night, [Western acting VP-administration] Jane O’Brien said that students will have priority, but she is not sure how that will work.”

Borthwick said the YMCA promised that little would change in the day-to-day operations of the daycare, which eased parents’ fears; but the YMCA began to backpedal on their promises — specifically the child-to-teacher ratio and staff wages and benefits.

At WDC, the ratio of children to teachers exceeds the provincial standard, Borthwick explained; but under the YMCA, that ratio would just meet the provincial standard.

“We will take direction from the university,” said the YMCA’s CEO Shaun Elliot about the operation of the day care, adding the facility will be re-evaluated every five years.

Danielle Dorthee, a second-year science student at Western, and a parent, said her biggest concern was that parents with children enrolled in the day care were not consulted in the process. “As a parent, you want to know that people are representing you properly.

“Choosing the [YMCA] was all political and all money — we feel like we have been blindsided,” Dorthee said.

O’Brien could not be reached for comment.



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