Board deliberations on child care expansion continue

Child care was again on the agenda for UVic’s Board of Governors at its Sept. 29 meeting.

Making a special representation to the board was Dr. Lynne Marks (History), speaking on behalf of the Childcare Action Group, a group of concerned faculty, students and staff. Marks briefly presented some of the findings of the group’s recent survey of child care needs on campus. She also urged the board not to be hasty in making a decision on the direction the university should take in addressing the need for more child care spaces and to involve all stakeholders in the process.

The board also received a report on child care expansion from the vice-president academic and the vice-president finance and operations, prepared at the request of the board’s operations and facilities committee.

The report reviewed the status of the current operations of UVic Child Care Services and outlined four options for future expansion.

UVic now provides high quality child care for 154 children in six centres, and in August there were approximately 300 children on the waiting list. The university provides an annual operating subsidy of $500,000, and approximately $300,000 in deferred maintenance costs have accumulated. While the university is committed to the current level of child care on campus, there is minimal potential for expansion within the existing facility according to the report, so this is not a viable option.

Another option identified is closing or reducing the after-school program and repurposing Centre 6 to provide 20 to 30 full-time, pre-school or mixed-age care spaces. This would entail renovation costs of $600,000 and require an additional $100,000 in annual operating subsidies.

A third option would be a new purpose-built facility to provide 50 spaces. This would entail capital costs of $1.75 million and additional annual operating subsidies of $187,000 to $314,000.

The fourth option explored is expanding local community capacity through third-party child care providers. In particular, the report identifies Kids & Co., a national child care provider, which has expressed interest in expanding into the Victoria area. It already provides child care for employees and students of eight universities and other large employers, including NSERC and SSHRC. Kids & Co. has identified a nearby building site and would cover full capital and operating costs and, for an annual fee from the university, guarantee access for all faculty and staff (and a similar arrangement could be negotiated for students).

The report was discussed in a meeting of the board’s operations and facilities committee and brought to the board with a motion, which carried, that requested the administration provide further information and options to the board at its November meeting.

The motion specifically requested further due diligence regarding Kids & Co.; an analysis of the need and demand for child care at UVic; a set of questions of principle for the board, including whether it is appropriate for the university to provide child care, and if so, whether it is appropriate to subsidize child care and at what levels, to identify any opportunity costs and, depending on the board’s answers to these questions, consider what options are possible and what form of multi-stakeholder consultation might be appropriate. Regardless of the outcome of the discussions, the university will continue to provide childcare at the current levels.

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Keywords: child care, campus

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