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Funding essential for some childcare centres

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LOWER ONSLOW, N.S.

Childcare grants announced recently were like a lifeline for Lower Onslow Preschool, its director says.

“What that means to us is that we can actually stay open for another year because we’ve initiated some toddler spaces,” says Joann Michelin.

The centre will receive $4,400 in funding as part of a federal-provincial agreement.

The funding announcement will help 51 centres across the province through financial support that has been increased from $2 million to $2.7 million to meet changing needs of communities.

The changes come in part because of free pre-primary care the provincial government introduced last year.

The Lower Onlsow centre is one of four within Colchester County to be included in the new funding.

The Colchester Community Day Care Association on Lorne Street in Truro receives $50,000; the Love, Laughter & Learning centre in Masstown receives $20,000; and the Making Friends Preschool on King Street, Truro, receives $10,000.

The Lower Onslow centre has an enrolment of 20 children per day. Michelin expects to lose between seven and 10 children because of the pre-primary program, which is free for parents.

“Our biggest issue was trying to keep little bodies at our centre,” she said, “because when this pre-primary program was announced it was a pretty dark cloud over us.”

Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Zach Churchill said the funding will allow for the conversion of 570 childcare spaces to support families with infants and toddlers, and with after-school care.

"Families want child care options that are affordable, accessible and inclusive, and government is responding to that need in our communities," Churchill said. "We have increased our original investment to meet this demand and create more spaces for children and infants."

The Lower Onslow centre previously accepted children between the ages of three and five years. It now plans to accept children as young as 30 months.

“So, hopefully, that will pick up anything that we lose at the four-year end because our local elementary was announced for pre-primary in September.”

Michelin said some of the grant money will be used to lower shelving and provide age-appropriate furnishings and toys for the younger children who will be coming to the centre.

“Now, we’re positive for next year,” said Michelin, who has been at the centre for 25 years. “We’ll be here until there’s only two children to come through the door because this pre-school has been operating for almost 50 years. And this is where my heart is.”

In January, the province signed a three-year, $35 million early learning and child care funding agreement with the Government of Canada. A portion of that funding has been designated to support this and other initiatives to grow the regulated child care sector for children, families and operators.

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