Establishing a permanent child care centre on campus has been a struggle for the last five years, leaving UTM as the only U of T campus without a permanent child care facility. But when students returned to campus last Tuesday, they found that the new Early Learning Centre had been completed.
The demand for child care has been an on-going campaign between the student union and the UTM administration for the last five years. Initially there was a childcare facility on campus, but it was shut down due to low demand. Some parents were upset, however, and asked the students union to intervene. The Erindale Part-Time Students Union and the Students Administrative Council (now UTSU) teamed up to campaign for a new facility. The University did not initially think there was enough of a demand, forcing the UTSU at UTM and EPUS to provide a facility in the student centre to accommodate families.
This move did not satisfy the increasing demand for childcare. The centre could only accommodate five children at a time. At its highest, there were 19 children using the facility on a rotational basis, with over 20 families on wait list. After numerous meetings and careful negotiations, the UTM administration and the student union came to an agreement and the groundwork for the ELC was laid. The building of the new facility also had many setbacks, with logistical problems plaguing the preliminary stages of construction. Despite numerous delays construction, construction began in March of 2009.
The Early Learning Centre replaces the child-minding centre operated by the student union. Located beside the Leacock Lane residence, it can accommodate 26 children and provides both full-time and part-time care to ten toddlers aged 18 to 30 months and 16 preschoolers aged 30 months to five years.
The building is a huge improvement in terms of space as the original centre was located in one of the student centre board rooms. There are now six employees and an on-site supervisor at the ELC that can provide more programs for the children.
The mission statement of the service provider states, The Early Learning Centre will provide a superior level of support to the family unit of University of Toronto students, staff and faculty by implementing early childhood education and care programs that strive for excellence.
The rates, however, have been questioned by the student union, who cited that the fees are more expensive than the previous centre. Whereas the temporary centre charged $5 an hour to a maximum to $40 a day for childcare — amounting to roughly $800 for monthly full-time care — the ELC is charging $982 for preschoolers, $1,286 for toddlers and $1,515 for infants for full-time monthly care.
The student union will be running a campaign to pressure the University administration to lower costs and increase bursaries. Students have been fighting for many years to gain an accessible child care facility on our campus. The child care centre finally exists but it is financially inaccessible to students, who are already burdened by soaring tuition fees, said UTMSU VP Equity Vickita Bhatt.