Parents angry with township council over daycare deal

by Gregg Chamberlain - EAP
Parents angry with township council over daycare deal
A large number of parents in Champlain Township are concerned about the change in management at the end of the year for the two municipal daycares located in CSDCEO elementary schools. They would like the township to delay the matter to allow for more public discussion on the issue. (Photo : Gregg Chamberlain)

There were lots of angry voices raised during a Thursday evening public meeting between parents and Champlain Township council over a decision to turn over management of the municipal daycare setup to an outside agency.

«We’re being blindsided,» said one parent during the raucous meeting September 28 in the gymnasium of École élémentaire catholique St-Grégoire in Vankleek Hill.

The township announced on its website September 27 that it was turning over operations for the municipal daycares at the CSDCEO elementary schools in Vankleek Hill and L’Original to L’Association francophone à l’éducation des services à l’enfance de l’Ontario (AFÉSEO). The provincial agency provides early childhood services throughout Ontario with a focus on French-language development. The township continues managing the two municipal daycares until December 31, after which the AFESO takes over.

More than 100 parents, some with accompanied by children and infants, showed up for a public information meeting that the township scheduled last Thursday to explain the change in management of the municipal daycares. Most of the comments from parents expressed anger and resentment that they were not consulted first about the situation.

«What made it so important to make that change?» said Phil Alexandre.

Both Mayor Normand Riopel and Chief Administrator/Treasurer Kevin Tessier told the audience that the decision was due to the continuing budget deficit for the township from its municipal daycare program. During the past five-year period from 2018 to 2022 the municipal daycare program has had an operation deficit ranging between $18,000 to almost $70,000. The program had one surplus period in 2019 of about $26,500 for its operations. For 2023 the expected deficit is almost $65,000 and the finance department projects a possible deficit of $144,000 if the township continues to include municipal daycare service as part of next year’s budget.

Another concern for many parents attending the meeting is the AFESEO’s focus on French-language development for children at the daycares it operates. Most parents at the meeting indicated they did not object to their children learning French, but they were worried about reports they had heard that staff would speak only in French to children even if a child only understood English.

AFESEO representatives Martine St-Onge and Annie Brooks both said that if a child does not understand any French, then staff would speak to them in English while also helping them to learn French. But they both emphasized that the agency’s mandate is to develop a child’s French-language skills.

Another concern of the parents was the fate of the existing staff at the two municipal daycares and whether they will be able to keep their old jobs even if they are not bilingual. St-Onge and Brooks both said the AFESEO has an evaluation process for hiring staff and all the present daycare workers will be able to apply for their jobs again if they wish.

Many parents asked if the township could delay the management changeover plan for the daycares to allow more public consultation on the issue. During a later interview Mayor Riopel said he would bring the subject up for council at its October 26 session to review and discuss all of the comments and feedback received during the September 28 public meeting.

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