Student parents concerned over new day care’s priorities
By Allison Buchan-Terrell
Western Day Care is moving across the street and ownership
is being transferred to the YMCA-YWCA, leaving some parents
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
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.