DSSAB provides childcare update

Sam Odrowski

A strategy to bring childcare closer to schools is being implemented throughout the district, with many centres already built at local education facilities.

While childcare additions have been built into Robert Moore and St. Mary’s schools, district residents have been inquiring about the additions to schools in Atikokan and Rainy River, according to Dan McCormick, Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (DDSAB) CAO.

“They are not stagnant as many people are circulating,” McCormick clarified, at the Rainy River District Municipal Association (RRDMA) AGM in late January.

At Riverview in Rainy River, a childcare centre with 39 spaces is going to be built with an EarlyON centre attached, in conjunction with the DSSAB and Rainy River District School Board (RRDSB).

EarlyON centres provide high quality drop-in programs for children and their caregivers from birth to age six. One was recently opened in the former high school building along Second Street.

Meanwhile, in Rainy River, issues arose last year when the ministry said the childcare centre must be a renovated section of the school, but cost estimates later revealed it would be a similar price to build a new facility.

A new build would also be less strenuous on students, as the original construction plans would force students to relocate to certain parts of the school for three to four months, as renovations were completed.

“It made no sense to have all the transition that you’d have working between two sites, where you’d have to demolish part of the site, move the kids, demolish the other part, and build, back and fourth,” McCormick explained.

“Because of that, the ministry required the school board to put in a totally new application,” he added.

“The money has been frozen for that site, but it’s still allocated, so we’re just waiting for the approval to proceed on that, once the final costing is done.”

Meanwhile, Atikokan is set to receive 49 childcare spaces but the project is also awaiting ministry approval.

“Once we get approval it will go to tender and then we’ll proceed from there,” McCormick noted.

Childcare providers in Rainy River and Atikokan will continue to offer their services until new facilities are built.

The original target was to have the childcare centres in Atikokan and Rainy River built and operational for September of 2021. McCormick told the Times that while he hopes they can still achieve that goal, the projects could be delayed depending on ministry approval.

Meanwhile, construction at Robert Moore created 39 childcare spaces last year and 10 more infant care spaces are now being added to the school.

St. Mary’s runs a similar operation. Since opening in early January, the new school offers another 39 childcare spaces.

Efforts are ongoing at Donald Young School in Emo where the childcare project-which also adds 39 spaces-has been approved and gone out to tender.

The DSSAB is also working on updating its Children’s Services Plan, which is a five year plan and will be completed sometime this year, McCormick noted.