As of January 23 the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) received clearance from the City of Mississauga to proceed with construction of the Early Learning Centre on campus. The child care centre was expected to open this February but according to Francesca Dobbin, director of Family Programs and Services at the University of Toronto, construction was delayed during the process of obtaining an operating license, zoning permits, building permits and other approvals.
The centre is to be built beside Leacock Lane residences and will have twenty-six spots for children of students, staff and faculty at UTM. The UTM Students Union (UTMSU) currently operates an interim child minding service, established in January 2006. Although the service at the Student Centre is able to provide care for some children, it is at the moment limited in capacity to only five.
At this time an updated opening date for the Early Learning Centre has not been released. We cant commit to an opening date yet, but are working with the projects architects, engineers and contractors, along with the operator, to finalize one, said Dobbin. [The opening date] will be shared widely as soon as it is available, she added.
Dean of UTM Student Affairs Mark Overton and Dobbin recently sent a letter apologizing to studentparents because the centre would not open in February 2009 as announced in November 2008. They added that the University of Torontos Family Care Office will assist families who need to make interim child care plans. The child minding service at the Student Centre will continue operating until the new centre opens.
UTM is one of few universities in Ontario without a permanent child care service. The University of Toronto St. George and Scarborough campuses both have child care centres currently in operation. York, Ryerson, Waterloo, Guelph, Brock, and many other universities also have similar centres for their students. The Day Care Centre at the University of Western Ontario recently celebrated thirty years in operation.
In the last three years, weve seen Oscar Peterson Hall and the RAWC (Athletic Centre) built. Why is it so hard to get the child care centre opened? commented Saaliha Malik, vice-president Equity at UTMSU. We know that the University has influence over the city council…[but] because they wont make a profit from [the child care centre] it seems like it is a lower priority.
Regardless of an undefined timeline for construction, both Dobbin and Overton reaffirmed that they are committed to providing a licensed child care facility at UTM.