2020-12-16by KEVIN MCBAIN
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Working parents in Liverpool will soon have a dedicated day care centre for their babies.
The Queens Daycare Association (QDA) has plans to open a a 1,100 sq.ft. infant care facility that will hold up to eight, three-to-18-month-old babies as early as February 2021. The building is located beside the association's current location at 108 College Street.
Scott Christian, board member and treasurer of the QDA, said a care facility for infants is greatly needed in the area.
"It's a huge deal for us, and something we have been working toward for a long time. There is currently no licenced daycare facility in the community for children under the age of 18 months, and we already have four or five infants on the list waiting for it to open," said Christian.
The facility is expected to cost close to $350,000. It is being built by Lloyoll pre-fab manufacturers based in Brooklyn. Most of the building will be pre-fabricated at Lloyoll's warehouse, before being moved to the site in January.
The QDA received approximately $280,000 in grants from the provincial government, and another $30,000 has been raised through various fundraisers and donations to build the facility.
Christian acknowledged the build won't be cheap, and said the association did consider renovating its current building, but in the end the board thought this would be the best way to go.
"The building needs to have ground floor access, sprinklers, fire suppression materials and more. Just given these, we made the decision instead to build a separate building right on that same site," said Christian.
With the new building, QDA also will have 50 spots for children from ages three months to 12 years of age. The new facility will create two or three more jobs on the QDA payroll, adding to the association's existing 10 full-time-equivalent staff positions.
The daycare currently operates out of the old Mount Pleasant School that was built circa 1957 and until recently was owned by the Region of Queens Municipality. The QDA had been a tenant of the building since 1984.
In 2017, the building was considered as surplus by RQM and the daycare was given until July 2019 to find a new home. They were unable to do so and put a bid of $1 to purchase the building and its surrounding property.
"The operational overhead is really big, now being the owners, as opposed to tenants. We have been picking away at improvements – such as painting the exterior, shingling and some window replacement," said Christian, adding that a furnace replacement is also on the list in the near future.
"We have an incredibly large infrastructure deficit and we're hardly getting by, to be totally honest. We're looking at driving enrolment and we're also exploring creative solutions to accessing grants and find some more donors to move things along."
Along with the $350,000 that needs to be raised, Christian and the QDA board have set a goal to raise another $150,000 for essential upgrades to the existing building.
Currently, there are just 25 children that attend on a regular basis.
"Enrolment is a challenge, particularly within the environment of the COVID-19 world. We are experiencing significant financial hardships as a result," said Christian. "We have the same operational costs and we can't cut back on staffing because of the cleaning protocols and constraints of movement of the educators and the children between rooms," said Christian.
Moreover, fewer people may be able to afford daycare because one parent may have lost a job or had their wages cut back.
The QDA recently received its charitable status, providing hope that this may help attract new donors and access to grants and funding in the years ahead.
"We're doing everything we can to make sure that it keeps going and continues to be a trusted, accessible, quality provider of childcare services. It's really, really critical," said Christian.