The University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) administration has announced that the planned Child Care Centre, which was initially supposed to be opened by January 2009, will not open in February as was recently announced at a November 18 meeting with students. UTM offered no timeline for completion, citing delays in obtaining construction permits from the City of Mississauga. At press time, the city had not responded to inquiries by Saaliha Malik, UTM Student Union (UTMSU) Vice President Equity, as to why the necessary permits had not been issued.
In June or July, UTMSU had a meeting when Mark Overton, Dean of Student Affairs at UTM. He told us they had selected an operator (Early Learning Centre) and they had given us timelines claiming they submitted all the paper work for permits already, explained Malik. When Dean Overton was recently contacted by UTMSU VP External Dhananjai Kohli, he stated that he was no longer involved in the project.
According to Malik, the contact person for the UTM Child Care Centre is Francesca Dobbin, manager of the St. George campus family day care. Dobbins has apparently not replied to e-mails and has only visited UTM once in the past. UTM just told me over an e-mail that [the Child Care Centre] is not opening, and that they cant even provide us with a timeline, complained Malik, suggesting that the university may be violating its own policies, which recognize child care as essential to creating a better learning environment. I am really angry about this she added.
The University in 2003 created a University Child Care Advisory Committee (UCCAC) in order to further its policy of being committed to the provision of child care programs and services on its campuses that further the University’s academic mission.
At present, both the St. George and Scarborough campuses have comprehensive and accessible daycare programmes, leaving UTM as the only campus without one. With financial assistance from UTM administration, UTMSU has been running a temporary, five-child Child Minding Service in the Student Centre, which is not a fully licensed facility and was only intended to last for two months.
The temporary Child Minding Service will remain open until a new centre is finally open on this campus, stated Malik who also noted that there are always people on the waitlist who are turned away. A permanent and licensed facility is badly needed at UTM, Malik continued, adding that it would provide much higher occupancy and give parents security knowing that their children have a permanent place to go. There has been little or no consultation with parents or students, says Malik, and the current operator was chosen by UCCAC behind closed doors, with no discussions with the UTMSU.
According to its website, UTM claims that the Child Care Centre will open in February. The new Child Care Centre will be located near the Leacock Lane residences, and will accommodate 26 children — 10 toddlers (ages 18 to 30 months) and 16 preschoolers (ages 30 months to 5 years).
The University also has an Emergency Child Care plan, which is run through private operator Kids and Company, located near Square One. The cost to participate in this program is an annual membership fee per named child (not per family) of $350 for up to twenty visits, to any of the existing locations at any time during U of T’s 12 month membership term.