Update on Old Orchard Childcare Services

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Dear neighbours,

Many of you may have heard news regarding the uncertain future of childcare services operated at the Old Orchard Public School. This is as a result of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) directing the Toronto Land Corporation to initiate a process of consultation to consider this site for sale.

The Old Orchard Public School building, located at 375 Dovercourt Road, has been closed by the TDSB for many years. During this time, two operators – the West End Parents Day Care Centre and the Orchard Montessori School have been using this space to offer childcare programming. In June of 2014, however, the TDSB listed this property for sale. The resulting sale of the Old Orchard site would remove the necessary programming space for these operators, requiring them to relocate.

Of additional concern to me is the potential loss of spaces due to insufficient space available elsewhere to accommodate all currently enrolled children. These concerns are not simply confined to these families, however, as the additional pressure resulting from the loss of these spaces, or their potential relocation to other centres, threatens to further destabilize childcare service delivery in our neighbourhoods

Foremost, I absolutely share your frustration – a frustration being experienced by far too many families in Ward 18 and across our city. I strongly believe that insufficient childcare is a fundamental challenge facing our city and increasing childcare spaces has been, and will continue to be, a main priority of my office.

While the Old Orchard Public School is not located within Ward 18, it affects many of our parents and families. As a result, this issue is serious concern to me personally and I have been in contact with City staff to determine possible solutions.

Although the city is not in a financial position to purchase the entire site, I have been working with the local Councillor, Mike Layton, to explore a coordinated effort between City Finance and Childrens Services that would assist the current tenants – the Montessori School and West End Parents Childcare. There are also opportunities to mitigate the impact of this closure by relocating 30 spaces into the adjoining public school. Ultimately, however, we need longer term solutions to these problems that recognize our city's desperate need for childcare space.

For this reason, I voted to expand the number of childcare subsidies across the city by over 2,000 spaces. Recognizing our own local needs for childcare, I also successfully negotiated a brand new childcare facility as part of the development of Sterling road. I will continue to build on these initiatives and work to expand childcare programming locally and across the City.

I also recognize that much of the pressure placed on school boards that has contributed to the loss of this childcare space involves the Provincial government and the school funding formula. I will continue to be a strong voice for these concerns, and for our community needs, at all levels of government.

In our own community, we have the Bloor-Dufferin School lands which have been designated "surplus." In response, I have been working for the past two years on a proposal that would maintain this as public space for use as a community hub. Earlier this month I contacted the new Minister of Education to highlight our community need for this proposal (available HERE).

Likewise, we have a role at the grassroots level in order to continue to ensure that childcare remains a central focus for all levels of governments. With this aim, I am exploring interest in holding a Parent's Summit this coming fall. This would be an event to share information and organize our efforts around child and parent issues. Please contact my office if you would be interested in participating.

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