Patti McDougall, vice-provost of teaching and learning and chair of the steering committee, recognizes that access to child care plays a role in student success and accessibility to education, and that no single child-care solution will meet the different needs of the entire campus community.
Results from an October 2013 survey indicate that approximately eight per cent of U of S students are parents. Currently, students use a variety of child care arrangements, including grandparents, family members, and after-school programs, in addition to day-care centres and private-home day-care services.
According to the survey, 68 per cent of student parents would be interested in accessing child care on or near campus, with a large portion of students preferring child-care close to home. A common theme throughout the survey was the difficulty of accessing affordable, quality child care in Saskatoon.
"One child-care solution does not fit all," said McDougall. "We would like to work together with others who we know are committed to finding a solution to Saskatoon's child care challenge including municipal and provincial government and other licensed day-care facilities. We see the primary mandate of the university as teaching and research, and we recognize that we cannot resolve social issues such as availability of child care seats on our own."
In early 2013, the U of S Board of Governors gave initial approval to explore a plan for a 90-space child-care centre in College Quarter, but a lack of funding and a need to provide a variety of child-care solutions has led the child care expansion committee to consider other options.
"We want to explore all of the options and consider a more comprehensive approach prior to committing our resources to one solution such as a new building," said McDougall. "We need to use the resources we have to support a range of child-care options, which will allow us to better address the diverse needs of our community."
Options currently under investigation by the committee include, renovating space in existing university buildings, exploring partnerships with other community stakeholders and working with the government to make private child-care facilities more financially viable.
If adding another child-care facility on campus is approved it would be the third such center on campus. Currently the two licensed child care facilities are independent, non-profit organizations staffed by trained early-childhood educators, and are overseen by parent boards. The two facilities have room for 110 children in total. Saskatchewan child-care regulations stipulate that the maximum number of children in one facility is 90.
On May 27 President Ilene Busch-Vishniac will update the Board of Governors on the Child Care Expansion Project steering committee's progress to date, but no decisions will be made at that meeting.
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